Behrend has been the perfect fit for T. Reed Ferguson Award winner

Paul Lukasik

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

As a Buffalo, N.Y., native and avid Bills and Sabres fan, Paul Lukasik seemed destined to attend college in his home state. In fact, he didn’t even plan to look at colleges outside of New York.

He’s glad he did, though.

“Penn State Behrend was the only out-of-state school I applied to,” Lukasik says. “Once I came here, I knew this was the place for me.”

Lukasik, who recently finished his junior year as a Project and Supply Chain Management major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, says he found college daunting when he first arrived. He knew no one, and the entire area was unfamiliar to him.

So, he devised a plan.

“My strategy was to get as involved as I possibly could,” Lukasik says.

In his three-plus years at the college, Lukasik has been a member of Kappa Delta Rho, Reality Check, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. He’s also served as a resident assistant and on the budget committee for the Student Government Association.

Lukasik’s contributions to the college were recognized April 27 at Penn State Behrend’s sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation when he was named the recipient of the T. Reed Ferguson Award. The award recognizes a junior who has demonstrated scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through his or her academic and out-of-class involvement and gives promise of further achievement in the senior year.

Lukasik’s success has carried over outside of the classroom. This past year, he began working as a sourcing intern at GE Transportation. He continues to work in that position over the summer

Lukasik says he learned the need to be active and involved as a young child. His grandparents founded the Fair Haven’s Church in North Tonawanda, N.Y., and he was always helping out.

“It’s been instilled in me,” Lukasik says. “I really just try to make the most of my time, and I just like to help people.”

Lukasik will have the opportunity to help more people this fall when he takes over as president of Reality Check, a community service organization on campus. Every year, the group goes on an Alternative Spring Break, a week-long service trip. The group went to New Orleans this past year and worked on rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Lukasik says he has enjoyed the opportunities to help others that Penn State Behrend has given him. He also recognizes how the college has helped him.

“Behrend is the perfect size, has a great group of students, and I can’t say enough good things about the Sam and Irene Black School of Business. Looking back, to when I was a freshman, I’ve just really evolved,” Lukasik says. “I had every intention of eventually transferring to University Park, but after my freshman year, I just knew that wouldn’t be possible.”

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Behrend award winner seeks to spread college students’ stories

Stacy Rabat

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

When Stacy Rabat was a junior in high school, her father, Khalil Rabat, abruptly suffered a heart attack, went into a coma, and died.

The experience was devastating for Rabat, but she says it’s taught her how precious life can be and to think before judging others. Because of her experience, she yearns to connect with other people and hear their stories.

That’s why Rabat, a sophomore marketing major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and this year’s winner of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, and another Penn State student, Rachael Hazen, have entered into a venture titled Scream Your Story. The two are working to create a blog or website that provides an outlet for people to share their personal stories and experiences.

“You can be sitting in a room with someone and have no idea what that person has gone through,” says Rabat, who received the award at the sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27. “It’s good to take a step back and realize that not everyone is going through the same things you are, and you don’t want to be judgmental.”

The website is still in its infancy, but Rabat hopes to work on it extensively this summer and into the fall semester. Hazen, who spent the previous two years at Penn State Behrend, plans to work on it from University Park, where she’s enrolled for the fall.

“We want to ask people what hardships they’ve been through, and we want them to send in their stories,” Rabat says.

With one contributor in Erie and another in University Park, Rabat says she expects the blog to grow significantly. She also plans to start including videos, too.

Rabat’s drive is indicative of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding student who demonstrates qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through their involvement in programs and services that positively influence fellow students and the college community.

Rabat has been very involved in her time at Penn State Behrend. She served as the THON chair and is a member of the Student Government Association, the Lambda Sigma national honor society, and formerly a member of the Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority. Rabat attributes much of her success to her own unique story.

Her father also remains a motivating force in her life.

“He was my best friend. I think of him every day,” Rabat says.

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Childhood memory drives senior award winner to succeed

Kristina Peszel

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Call it extra motivation. Call it an added incentive. Call it a chip on her shoulder.

However you label it, it’s clear there’s something that drives Kristina Peszel.

“When I first went to grade school, I was one of the youngest kids in my class. Because of that, I felt as if people questioned me and my ability,” says Peszel, a senior English major with the professional writing option at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “Since then, it’s driven me. I have always had this need to stand out and prove myself.”

Mission accomplished.

In her time at the college, Peszel has been a standout student, as evidenced by the Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award she won at this year’s Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27. The award recognizes a student whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship have been directed into student programs and services.

Peszel was thrilled to have been chosen for the award.

“It was really exciting, and it felt like recognition of everything that I’ve done on campus,” Peszel says.

It was a much deserved honor.

The Erie native has a 3.96 GPA and is the lead writing tutor at the Learning Resource Center. She’s served as the vice president and secretary for both the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. She’s also been a member of the Lion Entertainment Board, Reality Check, Studio Theatre, and a contributing writer for the Behrend Beacon.

Through her campus involvement, Peszel learned that she prefers to be busy. She thrives on activity, one reason she believes she’s been successful.

“If I have enough time to watch television, I feel as if I’ve forgotten something,” says Peszel, who will graduate in December.

Things have not slowed down this summer for Peszel, who is interning at Erie Insurance in the company’s IT department. The work she is doing relates directly to her experiences as lead writing tutor in the Learning Resource Center.

As a tutor, Peszel often edited various engineering papers, which provided her with skills and experience in technical writing. It has led her to think of her future in a different light.

“I realized that I’m not just a humanities student, but I can do the technology thing too,” Peszel says.

Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center, has worked with Peszel for the past three years at Penn State Behrend.

“Kristina is remarkable in the number of students she has impacted during her time at Behrend. She has tutored literally hundreds of students and also has a leadership role in the Learning Resource Center, organizing the Composition Support Program and mentoring new writing tutors,” Pflueger says. “Her professionalism, energy, and sincere desire to help others succeed will serve her well in all her future endeavors.”

With one semester left until graduation, Peszel plans to make some great memories and leave a legacy.

“I like surrounding myself with genuine, good people who like to help others,” Peszel says. “We can be remembered for all kinds of things, but how we affect other people’s lives is most important.”

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Behrend graduate and award winner lands job with Big Four audit firm

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Meilyng Gonzalez-Adams had been planning for days, and her personal sales pitch was ready.

The senior International Business and Accounting major knew 149 companies would be in attendance at the spring Career and Internship Fair at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and she was ready to make an impression.

But life is full of surprises.

On March 19, just one day before the career fair, Gonzalez-Adams was invited to an impromptu interview with representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ office in Cleveland. It didn’t take long for the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native to cancel her plans for the next day.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers called me that evening, and I called my mom and said, ‘I got a job offer, and I am not going to the career fair tomorrow,’” recalls Gonzalez-Adams, who will start her job as a tax associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s Big Four audit firms, in September.

The job offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers was the culmination of four successful years for Gonzalez-Adams, this year’s recipient of the Thomas H. Turnbull Award. The award, which recognizes a Penn State Behrend student who has contributed to the college community through outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship, was presented to Gonzalez-Adams at the sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27.

The award’s description fits Gonzalez-Adams. She was active during her time at Penn State Behrend as she graduated with a 3.79 GPA and served as a resident assistant and treasurer for the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority. She was a member of Penn State Behrend’s Lion Scouts, Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, and Beta Gamma Sigma, the national honor society in business.

Gonzalez-Adams credits her parents, Evan Gonzalez and Olga Adams, for much of her success. The two were young when Gonzalez-Adams was born, but they both attained college degrees.

The drive displayed by her parents resonated with Gonzalez-Adams and motivated her to get involved from the moment she arrived at Behrend. She says she had some helpful guidance along the way though.

“From the moment I contacted Mary-Ellen Madigan, (director of enrollment services), in Admissions until today, everyone has been amazing at Penn State Behrend,” Gonzalez-Adams says. “I know I wouldn’t be who I am or going where I’m going without the faculty and staff here.”

The feeling seems to be mutual.

“Meilyng is an extraordinary individual and has made a lasting impression on me, the admissions staff, our visitors, and the campus,” says Andrea Konkol, associate director of admissions.

According to Konkol, the college has extended its recruiting efforts to Puerto Rico, and Gonzalez-Adams has been vital in making students feel welcome.

“In September of 2012, I held a reception in San Juan for the parents of our current students. Every one of those families knew who Meilyng was because she had taken the time to seek out and befriend their son or daughter as soon as they arrived on campus,” Konkol says. “For students arriving to a college so far from home, it is comforting to have a friend that understands what it’s like and to serve as ‘big sister.’”

Gonzalez-Adams says she enjoys helping. She recognizes the growth she’s made at Penn State Behrend, and she hopes others can have a similar experience.

“I go home and people say, ‘You’re completely different from the person you were in high school,’ and I like hearing that,” Gonzalez-Adams says. “I like that Penn State Behrend was able to help me with that.”

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For Outstanding First-Year Student, the sky is the limit

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Bangladesh women do not typically come to America to pursue a college education, but there’s nothing typical about Ramisa Fariha, this year’s recipient of the Outstanding First-Year Student Award.

For starters, the Narayanganj, Bangladesh, native, who recently completed her first year as a Biomedical Engineering student at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, is a diehard professional wrestling fan. She draws inspiration from her favorite World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, Batista.

As a child, Fariha would watch wrestling with her brother, Sajjadul Karim Chowdhury. They both had their share of favorite wrestlers, but there was something about Batista that resonated with Fariha.

“Batista’s favorite quote is, ‘Work hard and the sky is the limit,’” Fariha says. “That’s become my favorite quote.”

But it’s more than just an inspirational catchphrase for Fariha. It’s a guiding philosophy that she has taken to heart.

Fariha has a lofty goal.

“In my country, a woman is always blamed when she cannot give birth, even when it’s not her fault,” Fariha says. “I want to one day create an artificial ovary, and I want it to be non-mechanical, so it can work inside the human body.”

While she knows her aim is high, she’s confident that hard work will get her there, and she’s wasted no time at Penn State Behrend, swinging for the fences in her very first year.

Not only does she have a 3.82 GPA, but she is a member of the Lion Entertainment Board, event correspondent for The Behrend Beacon, Residence Life Service Leader for Center of Service, a member of the Lambda Sigma national honor society and the 2014-2015 elected president for the Muslim Student Association.

Fariha says she thought of Batista often during her studies and even rewarded herself with a silver Batista pendant after winning the Outstanding First-Year Student Award at the sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27.

She says she also attributes some of her success at Penn State Behrend to the warm welcome she has received. She describes Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management, as a “second mother,” and says her professors and friends have also made her feel at home.

Fariha says winning the award, which recognizes a first-year student who demonstrates outstanding promise of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through achievements in his or her first year of study, was a moment she will never forget.

“For me, when I heard Kelly Shrout, (presenter and associate director of Student Affairs), say ‘Bangladesh,’ that was the proudest moment of my life,” she says. “A lot of people think of Bangladesh and only think about the negative things.”

Fariha says the award made her family very proud. Her father, Ahsanul Karim Chowdhury, is one of the top lawyers in Bangladesh and has always emphasized education. Fariha’s mother, Laila Nahar Chowdury, taught her to work hard and to not take anything for granted. Her brother, Sajjadul Karim Chowdhury, has encouraged her at every step along the way.

“This award shows that I’m here to do something special,” Fariha says.

Fariha says she is excited to return to Narayanganj this summer, so she can watch wrestling with her nieces and start a new generation of fans. She knows some people say professional wrestling is fake, but she doesn’t care.

“If you start to rationalize everything, you lose the fun in life,” Fariha said.

Fariha hopes that more students from Bangladesh will consider coming to Penn State Behrend in the future. From the moment she started to look at colleges, Fariha said Behrend just felt like home, and she believes other Bangladesh natives could have a similar experience.

Her best advice to new students?

“Don’t be afraid to be yourself. There will always be people who will like who you are and some who don’t,” Fariha says. “I would change nothing about my first year at Penn State Behrend because I’ve been myself.”

Margaret Eimers caps off time at Penn State Behrend by winning Hetzel Award

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Margaret Eimers regularly reminds her children that a person is not defined by his or her past mistakes.

She would know. She’s proved it.

More than twenty years ago, Eimers dropped out of high school during her sophomore year after she failed a class and became fed up with school.

Now, in a few days, the Erie native is about to walk in her first commencement ceremony. She will graduate with a 3.94 grade point average and bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. How’s that for juxtaposition?

When it comes to Eimers, graduation is the icing on the cake.

Throughout her time at the college, Eimers has been president of the Penn State Behrend Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, vice president of the Society of Undergraduate Economists, and a member of Psi Chi International Psychology Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She has also served as an ambassador for adult student open houses and a career counseling intern at the Academic and Career Planning Center.

Eimers was recognized for all of her collegiate accomplishments on April 27 when she was awarded a Ralph Dorn Hetzel Memorial Award at the Sixty-fifth Annual Honors and Awards Convocation at Penn State Behrend. The award is named after Penn State’s tenth president and recognizes a combination of high scholastic achievement with good citizenship, and participation and leadership in student activities.

While Eimers may not have had a high school diploma, she always had a thirst for knowledge and cognition. Prior to enrolling at Penn State Behrend, she worked for eleven years as a crossing guard and estimated that she read at least fifty books annually during her downtime while directing traffic. Eventually, Eimers was asked to stop reading during her shifts, which led her to consider college.

“I said, ‘Why am I doing this when I really could be learning?’” said Eimers, who earned her GED after dropping out of school.

Eimers decided to apply to college, and Penn State Behrend was at the top of her list as she was aware of the value that a Penn State degree carries. Unfortunately, her application was initially denied.

“I went through the appeals process to become a student here,” Eimers said. “After I wrote an essay and was accepted, I then began as a provisional student.”

Eimers started as an Accounting major, a subject she had previously studied at a business school in Pittsburgh.

Accounting worked initially for Eimers, but something was missing.

“I can do accounting, and I do like it, but what I do is build relationships; what I do is help people,” Eimers said.

That drive led Eimers to change her major to Psychology with the goal of one day becoming an academic counselor.

Upon graduation, Eimers will work for the summer in the Academic and Career Planning Center. She’s looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Greg, as well as her children, David and Rebekah, who she said have been extremely supportive during her time as a Penn State Behrend student.

Eimers’ story as an adult student is far from over though.

In the fall, she begins work on a master of arts in counseling from Edinboro University. It’s just the latest stop in her academic journey.

“I like to call this my very happy mid-life crisis,” Eimers said. “I feel as if I have exceeded my expectations. Life is a moving target though, so now I’ll create new expectations. “

We’re sure she’ll hit the bullseye.

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