Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Olivia Hodgson (Environmental Science)  

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world! We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Olivia Hodgson.  

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Major: Environmental Science

Minors: Biology and Chemistry

Hometown: Centre Hall, Pennsylvania

On choosing Behrend: When I first visited Behrend, I knew this was the place for me. Behrend is a small school that offers so many opportunities. It has allowed me to grow socially, academically, and professionally.

On choosing her major: I chose to major in Environmental Science because, when I was in high school, I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. I wanted to combine my interests in biology and chemistry to study chemical pollution in the environment.

Her proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My undergraduate research and presenting my findings at the annual Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America conference.

Campus involvement: Behrend Alternative Break, Behrend Honors Student Association, Greener Behrend, and the Schreyer Scholars Program.

Awards and recognitions: Undergraduate 2021 Jerry Covert Student Research Award, Cavano Leadership Award, Most Outstanding Student Organization Officer Award, Penn State Behrend Academic Excellence Award.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: In another life, I would be a K-12 science teacher.

Her passions: Science and science education. I want to foster curiosity and be a mentor to other aspiring scientists.

Advice for first-year students: It is important to balance hard work with fun. It’s obviously important to prioritize your studies, but make sure you spend time with your friends, get outside, take up a hobby, and just step away from your work for a few hours.

After her graduation in May, Olivia will begin a research assistantship at Penn State University Park and begin working toward a master’s degree in Ecology.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Joseph Previte Jr. (Polymer Engineering and Science)  

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world! We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Joseph Previte Jr.

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Major: Polymer Engineering and Science (PES)

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I am a Penn State Schreyer Scholar.

Why Behrend? I chose Behrend because it was close to home and offered the degree that I was interested in.

On choosing his major: I chose the PES major because I love chemistry, and this new major is very chemistry-focused.

A trailblazer: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend is being one of the first two students to graduate from the brand-new PES major.

Campus involvement: I was a member of the Behrend Plastics club during my junior and senior years.

Awards: I have been on the Dean’s list since Fall 2020.

What makes him unique: I really love airplanes, and I flew a plane before I drove a car.

People might be surprised to know: For most of my college career, I was in a class of just two students, since my major is brand new to Penn State Behrend.

Top priority: To earn a doctorate in Polymer Science and Engineering with a focus on aerospace composites. I would love to work for an aircraft company like Boeing or Lockheed Martin designing commercial or military aircraft.

His passions: I am passionate about airplanes and my career, but also about my faith, family, and friends. I also love physical activities such as skiing and weightlifting.

After his graduation in May, Joseph will work at Parker LORD Corporation for the summer in research and development. In the fall, he will begin graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Alexis Parker (Nursing)   

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!-  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Alexis Parker.   

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Major: Nursing

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Panhellenic Council Scholarship and Irvin Kochel Leadership Scholarship. I also received an outside award from the American Association of University Women (Erie branch.)

On choosing her major: I have always had a passion for science, medicine, and helping people. I knew that nursing was for me. Penn State has a great nursing program, so it was an easy choice to make.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment is the service event that was hosted through Panhellenic Council. All of the sororities came together and collected feminine products, new clothing, and other items to make more than 100 individual grab bags that were donated to a local non-profit organization that benefits women and children in crisis. I was so happy with the teamwork that the sororities displayed and the outcome of our donation drive.

Campus involvement: I was involved in Alternative Spring Break, Alpha Sigma Alpha, National Panhellenic Council, and our campus chapter of the Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania.

What you might be surprised to know about her: I am a licensed cosmetologist. I hope to find a part-time job working in a medical spa, so I can utilize my nursing degree and my cosmetology experience to make people feel better about themselves.

How does she define a good life: A good life would be getting to wake up and genuinely enjoying what I am doing, whether helping somebody in the hospital, making somebody else laugh or smile, hanging out with my family, or just reading a good book.

Top priority: My top priority is getting oriented to my new career and eventually applying to graduate school. I want to obtain my doctorate in nursing and become either a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist.

Her passion: I am passionate about helping people and participating in service to others. I was honored to be able to participate in Alternative Spring Break all four years of my collegiate experience. I hope I can continue participating in service opportunities after I graduate.

Advice for first-year students: Get involved and attend events. Joining clubs and organizations will give you so much experience in team building, growing relationships with others and being a leader. I have grown so much in my leadership skills, and that would not have happened without involving myself in the wonderful clubs, organizations, and events on campus.

Alexis has accepted a job in the trauma-neuro intensive care unit at UPMC Hamot in Erie.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Hannah Gampe (Mathematics)

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world! We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Hanna Gampe.

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Name: Hannah Gampe

Major: Mathematics, Applied Mathematics option

Minors: Computer Science and Statistics

Hometown: Tyrone, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Behrend Excellence Award and Todd Leadership Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I grew up between Altoona and University Park, so I loved the community, connections, and opportunities to be found in the Penn State community. I wanted to go to a smaller campus where I could meet new people, and Behrend was perfect for me.

On choosing her major: I always loved math and the subject came naturally to me, so I decided to explore it more.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: During my first semester over Thanksgiving break, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and had to miss a week of school. I was told that I might not be able to come back from missing that much time, but I did. I finished my first semester with a 4.0 grade point average and have maintained it ever since.

Campus involvement: I am the president of Random Acts of Kindness, Pi Mu Epsilon, and the Disability Awareness and Resources for Equity group, and also vice president of University Park’s chapter of The Diabetes Link. I am also a member of Lion Ambassadors, Lion Scouts, Leadership Scholars, the 75th Anniversary Planning Committee, and Alternative Spring Break, and I am a math tutor.

Awards and recognitions: The President’s Award, the Most Promising Freshman in Mathematics, the Sparks Award, Evan Pugh Scholar, Academic Excellence in Mathematics, and Irvin H. Kochel Award

What makes her unique: I can sing the alphabet backward.

What you might be surprised to know about her: I played piano for nine years.

Her definition of a good life: Being happy with yourself and being kind to others. Showing kindness to others is, in turn, showing kindness to yourself. It’s important that your happiness come from within and not rely on another person or material things.

Her passions: I really like reading and I hope to travel when I get out of school.

Advice for first-year students: Don’t be afraid of your professors. They are people, too (shocking!). They want you to succeed, and they care about you.

A final note: The best advice I received regarding college was: “You can work hard for four years and have fun the rest of your life or have fun for four years and work hard the rest of your life.” That’s not to say you can’t have fun in college, but remember why you are there and make smart choices.

After graduation, Hannah, plans to start her career in data analysis or statistics.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Jessica Pengilly (Biology)

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Jessica Pengilly.

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Major: Biology (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior option)

Hometown: Mars, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I received the Aaron Meehl Scholarship and the John K. Henne Endowment for International Study.

On choosing her major: I absolutely love being outside.

Relationships are key: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend are the relationships that I’ve formed with my professors and fellow researchers.

What makes her unique: I can make any boring situation into a fun time.

Advice for first-year students: Do not be afraid to talk to your professors. They can be some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. If you don’t understand a topic in class, meet with them during their office hours. Professors absolutely love it when you ask them questions.

Parting thoughts: College is only as fun as you make it. If you treat every week like it’s miserable, it will be. Find enjoyment in everything you do, and the college experience will be much better.

After her graduation in May, Jessica hopes to find work as a park ranger. 

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Brooke Johnston (Environmental Science)

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Brooke Johnston.

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Major: Environmental Science

Minor: Biology

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On choosing Behrend: I originally wanted to attend a larger school, but when I toured Behrend I realized that the smaller school environment would give me more opportunities. I really liked the low student-to-professor ratio because I wanted to build meaningful mentor relationships.

On choosing her major: Environmental science is a diverse major that offers a lot of career options after college. I know environmental science majors who are going into geology, law, or construction consultancy.

Her proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I’ve had many great opportunities at Behrend, but when it comes to my proudest accomplishment, I think of my personal development rather than awards or research. I’m proud of the way I’ve come out of my shell at Behrend. As a freshman, I was very quiet, scared to ask questions, and hesitant to talk to people I didn’t know. Now, I’ve grown into someone who is confident in herself and isn’t afraid to raise her hand or speak up.

Campus involvement: Most of my extracurricular involvement at Behrend has involved Science Ambassadors. I would recommend Science Ambassadors to any STEM students because the organization pushed me to become more active in the School of Science and to meet new people. I also have been involved in undergraduate research for the biology department since sophomore year, which has been such an important part of my college experience.

What you might be surprised to know about her: I’m a very creative and artistic person. I’ve always loved writing, singing, painting, and dancing. I was in a dance program for jazz and ballet my entire K-12 years, and was in the school choir for six years.

What makes her unique: I’ve loved science and animals since I was a toddler. Beginning at a young age, I would pick up insects, snakes, and anything that moves. I’ve held everything from baby kangaroos (joeys) and binturongs (bear-cats) to Madagascar cockroaches and snails! I’ve also petted a rhino before, which is my go-to fun fact about myself for icebreakers.

Awards: Behrend Outstanding Freshman of the Year Award in 2020 .

Advice for first-year students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This applies to all majors, but especially if you’re in the STEM fields because it’s important to be curious about everything. Being a scientist means a career full of questions, so start asking them now.

What she is passionate about: I could name many things I feel strongly about, but I’m most passionate about being respectful to nature. Nature is so intricate, and I truly admire the way every part of it fits together like a puzzle.

After her graduation in May, Brooke plans to attend graduate school at Syracuse University and work toward a Ph.D. in the biology, evolution, and ecology track.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Amanda Mullen (Environmental Science)

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Amanda Mullen.

Amanda Mullen

Major: Environmental Science

Minor: Biology

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On choosing her major: From a young age, I knew I wanted to work outside. In high school, I took honors and AP environmental science courses and instantly knew it was the field for me. I love the interdisciplinary nature of this field and the variety of things you can do with the degree.

Her proudest accomplishment:  Winning first place in the student poster category for a display about my research work that I presented at the national Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) conference in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2022.

Campus involvement: I am the Vice President of the National Society of Leadership and Success and a mentor to five sophomore science and engineering majors through the STEM Leaders Program, and I am a Science Ambassador.

Awards: Environmental Science Excellence in Academics and Research Award, Council of Fellows Undergraduate Student Research Award.

What you might be surprised to learn about her:  I was a member of the pep band for many semesters. I played percussion in high school and continued playing in my time at Behrend. I also love to paint.

Advice for first-year students: Everything is going to be OK! A bad grade or a low test score do not define you. Try your hardest in your classes and activities but remember also to have fun and get out of your comfort zone.

After graduation, Amanda plans to attend graduate school at George Mason University and earn a master’s degree in Earth System Science.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet Jimmy Landy (Nursing)

Penn State Behrend’s Class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Jimmy Landy.  

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Major: Nursing

Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania

On choosing Behrend: I chose Penn State Behrend because it is a smaller, more intimate campus. On top of that, the natural beauty of the school really drew me in. Both the campus architecture and natural surroundings (like Wintergreen Gorge) made me love coming to campus every day.

On choosing his major: I became interested in a health profession in high school when I took a course to become a nurse aide. I originally wanted to become a doctor, but after working as a nurse aide, I learned nurses had an even greater connection to the patient.

Campus involvement: I am the executive vice president of Lion Ambassadors. I have also been involved with the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP), Behrend Honors program, and Scrubs Club. I also am a lead tutor with the Learning Resource Center (LRC) and a Lion Scout tour leader for admissions.

Awards: I received two awards in my junior year,  Outstanding Tutor of Science for my work leading group reviews for nursing classes with the LRC, and the Irvin H. Kochel Lion Ambassador award for my dedication to the Lion Ambassadors club.

What makes him unique: I believe I’m a talented writer. One day, I hope to publish a book series. I am passionate about my writing; I could talk about it for hours and hours.

A champion for children: Ever since I started working with kids when I was 16, I have been astonished that another person could harm a child. This was one of the driving factors in my decision to focus on pediatric emergency nursing. I want to be on the front lines of helping to protect children.

Advice for first-year students: I would tell a new student to take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. Our school has free tutoring, exploratory services for undecided students, and career services that all help you excel in class and help you to find where you belong. I would also encourage students to make meaningful connections with their professors, speak up in class, go to office hours, and never be afraid to ask for help.

With a little help from his friends: It would be hard to pick a favorite memory from my time at Behrend, but looking back, I know that I could never have done it without my best friends and study buddies, Lauren Teresi and Lexie Parker. Any time we are together there’s a 25 percent chance of studying and a 75 percent chance we’re going to tell stories, make each other laugh, and get nothing done. Even though we may not have been the most productive when we were together, the support we offered each other was invaluable.

After his graduation in May, Jimmy plans on working in a pediatric emergency room. One day, he hopes to return to school to become a nurse practitioner and possibly teach.

Standout Seniors ’23: Meet McKenzie Hovis (Secondary Education in Mathematics)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2023 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and all that they have learned and accomplished here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technologies, participated in important research projects, and made their mark at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet McKenzie Hovis:

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Major: Secondary Education in Mathematics

Hometown: Emlenton, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Class of 1922 Memorial, Fryer Trustee Scholarship, Balmer Trustee Scholarship

On choosing her major: I chose my major because I have always loved math and helping others understand it.

Making the list: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend is being named to the Dean’s List all eight semesters.

Campus involvement: I am a member of the Behrend women’s basketball team, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).

Honors and awards: I was inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma Athletic Honor Society and earned AMCC Academic All-Conference every year.

What she would tell first-year students: My advice to first-year students is to take advantage of the opportunities and resources offered at Behrend. See your professors during office hours. Attend sporting or other organized events. Join a club. All these opportunities are available to you as a student at Behrend, and by taking advantage of them, you will grow in so many ways.

After her graduation in May, McKenzie plans to work as a high school mathematics teacher.

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Standout Seniors: Meet Grant Oishi (Nursing)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Grant Oishi: 

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Major: Nursing

Minor: Biology

Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: The Clark Family Scholarship and the Class of 1922 Memorial Scholarship, as well as several grants to aid in my undergraduate research.

Why did you choose Behrend? Initially I did not. I applied to the nursing program and the Schreyer Honors College at University Park but was not accepted. So, I did some research and found Behrend, which had a BSN nursing program and campus honors program. Erie also had a few major hospitals, which was a key factor, as I wanted the best clinical experiences. I applied and was accepted to the nursing and Behrend Honors Program.

Serendipity: It turns out that not being able to attend the campus I thought I wanted to attend was one of the best things to happen to me. At Behrend, I immediately made connections with my peers and faculty, was able to easily get involved in clubs, and being so far from home, I was forced to grow as an individual.

On choosing nursing: I chose nursing for the reason most people do – I like helping people. It’s incredibly rewarding to care for someone and watch them improve, knowing that you played a role in their recovery. It’s also very humbling to have the responsibility of caring for individuals on some of the worst days of their lives. Nursing also involves a great deal of critical thinking, especially in the ICU. However, I have always enjoyed my science classes the most, which is why I have also pursued research and a minor in Biology.

Proudest accomplishments: I am proud of a lot of what I have done at Behrend, especially since so many things were new for me. I held executive board positions in multiple clubs, became a Schreyer scholar and completed a thesis, became a tutor, and won scholarships. But the thing I’ll carry with me are the relationships I made with students, staff, and faculty that have shaped my time at Behrend and the trajectory of my future.

Involvement: I am the treasurer of Scrubs Club, a pre-health club that exposes students to different disciplines within the field of healthcare through guest speakers, advising, and volunteer opportunities. I joined Cultural Cooking Club (CCC) my first year and have served as everything from secretary to president of the club. CCC’s mission is to explore the world and its many cultures through the lens of regional and national dishes.

Awards: In 2019, I received the Evan Pugh Scholar Award, which is given to the top five juniors and seniors.

Don’t give up: I eventually joined the Schreyer Honors College during my junior year, which proves that just because one path to your goal is blocked, doesn’t mean another one won’t open up.

The good life, defined: A good life involves happiness, fulfillment, and purpose in whatever forms those come in. Material possessions, recognition, and even your GPA often steal the spotlight, but at the end of the day, our close personal relationships are our greatest legacy and what I believe matter the most.

He’s a music man: Beyond science and medicine, I love music. I think it’s amazing that combinations of sound can have such a profound an effect on us and be so evocative. I’d like to learn how to play a few instruments now that I’ll have more free time.

Advice for new students: Get organized before the semester starts. Email your professor before the semester starts to ask if you actually need to buy the textbook for the class (most will be honest). Use Google Calendar (or something similar) to keep your schedule organized – it’s free, easy to use, and synchs across devices.

Following his graduation in May, Grant plans to take time for a cross-country solo trip to explore more of the country and scout locations where he might want to live. He’ll then look for a nursing position in a critical care specialty, preferably trauma medicine. He plans to return to school in the future to work on a graduate degree in the sciences or as a nurse anesthetist.