Eye on Medical Careers: Behrend’s Pre-Health Program Seniors Stand Out

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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Ashley Price

You may have heard that the eyes are the window to your soul, but did you know they also offer a pretty clear view of your overall health?

“The eye is really interesting because it can reveal a lot of health problems,” said Ashley Price, a senior Biology major and Chemistry minor in the Pre-Optometry program at Penn State Behrend. “Many people learn they have diabetes from their eye doctor because the disease affects the small capillaries in the retina.”

Other health issues that can be spotted in the eyes include hypertension, autoimmune disorders, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and even some types of cancer and tumors.

Price had planned to be a family physician but switched to optometry after shadowing an eye doctor in high school. “I just thought it was so cool,” Price said. “You’re always looking at something different. And I like the personal aspect of optometry. You see the same patients year after year and can form relationships with them.”

Like her career choice, Price’s college plan changed course after a first-hand experience.

“I was totally set on going to Pitt, but then a friend talked me into touring Behrend, and as soon as I set foot on campus, it felt like home,” she said.

For the last four years, Behrend has been her home. Price, who will graduate in May, has been a Resident Assistant for three years. She’s currently an R.A. in Ohio Hall, but this fall, she’ll move to another Ohio—Ohio State University—where she will attend optometry school.

She had a lot of options. She applied to and was accepted at six different schools that offered four scholarships, with two at the highest amount the schools offered.

Price is well prepared for the next step in her career, something she credits, in part, to several School of Science faculty members who kept her on the right path and moving forward.

“The professors at Behrend make sure you get to where you want to go,” she said. “They are always behind you and, at the same time, offering to show you the way.”

Price had one recognized adviser, Dr. Beth Potter, associate professor of microbiology. But, she also gathered several more unofficial advisers related to her course of study—Dr. Todd Cook, assistant professor of biology and chair of Pre-Health Programs, and Dr. Jason Bennett, associate professor of chemistry. “I could, and did, go to any of them with any questions I had or if I just wanted advice.”  

Behrend’s Pre-Health Professions Programs in dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, physician assistant, physical or occupational therapy, and veterinary medicine, require more precise planning than most other majors.  

 “In my first year at Behrend, I went to a pre-health program in which Dr. Mike Campbell (distinguished professor of biology) talked about how to put together the ‘perfect package’ for medical school, and basically gave us a list of things we could do and accomplish during our undergraduate years that would make us attractive to medical schools later.”

Price, who is also a Scheyer Honors College scholar, took Campbell’s suggestions as a to-do list, assuming leadership opportunities, gaining experience in her field through internships and job shadowing, and working on research projects with her professors.

It’s turned out to be a formula for success, not only for Price, but for several pre-health program participants who will be graduating in May and starting the next chapter in their careers, including: Jessie Kibbe and Taylor Hibbard, who have been accepted into physician assistant programs; Dillon Patel, who was offered admission to four dentistry schools; Aldyn Poston, who will attend optometry school, and Zainab Kareen, who was accepted to osteopathic medical school but has decided to attend graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine.”

Price, who is also the vice president of the college’s Scrubs Club and a Lion Ambassador, said she will miss Behrend, but she’s looking forward to taking the next step toward her career goal.

“Optometrists are literally improving people’s outlooks,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to do that for patients.”  

About Behrend’s Pre-Health Programs

As they navigate the application process for admission into health professional schools, students enrolled in Behrend’s Pre-Health Programs are guided by the Pre-Health Advisory Committee, comprising of faculty members from the School of Science and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, This includes continuous advising and the composition of a committee letter that highlights the student’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments and readiness for the rigors of health professional school. Over the last three application cycles, more than forty Penn State Behrend students have successfully been to various health professional schools and medical-related graduate programs.

To learn more about Behrend’s pre-health programs, visit behrend.psu.edu/prehealth.  

Crossing Disciplines Pays Off

First-year business student and senior engineering major win short story contest

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By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Look, $100 is $100, OK? So when Senior Mechanical Engineering student Sam Cabot saw the opportunity to earn some cold hard cash (er, Visa card) by whipping up a little story about brunch for Penn State’s University Libraries Short Edition short story dispensers, he was on it like, well, syrup on French toast, if we’re going to stick with the brunch theme here.

It was that delicious hybrid morning meal that students, faculty, and staff were invited to write about for a chance to win money, bragging rights, and a spot in the Libraries’ short story dispensers. There are ten of them spread out among seven University locations, including Behrend’s Lilley Library. With the press of a button, the dispenser prints out a short story that users can take with them to enjoy when they have one to five minutes to spare.

Four “Brunchin’ Around” contest winners were chosen recently by the Short Stories all-student editorial team and two of the authors—Cabot and Isaac Barringer—are Penn State Behrend students.

Barringer, a first-year Finance and Accounting dual major, wrote “The Daffodil House,” about a couple found in their yellow house covered in flies and bellied up to what turned out to be their last meal—brunch, of course, “for the Connors were of a practical stock and believed that breakfast was more efficient if it included lunch as well.”

Cabot, who writes under the pen name Johann Lecker for no particular reason other than the fact that he likes the name (“Lecker” means delicious in German), wrote “To Brunch?” in which the main character finds himself on a mountain in Brasher State Forest in upstate New York trying to make it to Sunday brunch at his grandmother’s house.

“Basically, it’s about someone who tries to remedy an uncomfortable situation, then abandons it altogether, for better or worse,” Cabot said.

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Sam Cabot

Cabot said he entered the contest not only for the potential prize money but for fun and the chance to challenge himself.

“From what I have noticed, engineering students enjoy creative activities as much as any other students, but internships and course load limit the amount of time they can devote to other things,” Cabot said. “Most of the writing that engineers must make time to do is formal and impersonal, so that may be why there’s a stereotype that they are not creative writers.”

Like most authors, Cabot didn’t have a story outlined in his head. Rather, he had a few ideas to start with and the story emerged from there. It’s purely fictional. Cabot has never been anywhere near Brasher State Park, and his grandma didn’t host monthly family brunches.

Asked if it’s unusual that a business major and an engineering major would win a writing contest, Cabot cites the value and of cross-disciplinary learning, which can be beneficial to students in any major.

“It’s easy to grow absorbed in disciplines, like engineering, that are extremely career-focused and require huge amounts of time spent on very specific tasks,” he said. “Adding courses in history or psychology or any of the humanities can provide a healthy balance. The knowledge gained from an occasional hour spent studying the humanities can be as relevant in the real world as the knowledge gained during any of the last eight or ten hours spent sizing a planetary gear train or debugging a C++ program. They both have value.”

But, Cabot said, the ultimate reward for him in exploring the humanities is finding something new and interesting to scratch his creative itch and expand his skills beyond the lab.

You can find links to Cabot and Barringer’s stories as well as the other winners and honorable mention entries here.

Standout Seniors: Meet Gina Demeo

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 couple months, 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 Gina Demeo:

Gina DeMeo

Major: Industrial Engineering

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I received the PNC Leadership Scholarship

On choosing her major: Industrial engineering is about making things work efficiently, which is something I knew I was good at.

Campus involvement: I am president of the National Organization of Business and Engineering (NOBE) club, treasurer of the Materials and Manufacturing group, and an Engineering Ambassador. I’m also a member of the student chapter of the Institute of Industrial Systems Engineers and vice president of member development for Alpha Sigma Tau.

On taking charge: It is easy for me to take the lead on a project or planning an event. If no one seems to be stepping up to do so, I will happily put in 110 percent to get it off the ground.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: One of the best parts of my college experience has been being a member of a sorority. When you’re a woman in a male-dominated field, you need a strong girlfriend group. I found that within my sorority.

The good life, defined: To me, living a good life means being happy and kind to everyone. During my time at Behrend, I have been able to find a balance within myself to be able to do just that.

 

Following her graduation in May, Gina plans to find a job in the field of industrial engineering.

Standout Seniors: Meet Troy Valkusky

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 couple months, 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 Troy Valkusky:

Troy valkusky

Major: Project and Supply Chain Management

Minor: Managing Information Systems

Hometown: Drifton, Pennsylvania

On choosing Penn State Behrend: Behrend has many unique certifications that other schools do not offer. This allows me to differentiate myself from other graduates across the country. Also, while my first priority was academics, I wanted to continue playing water polo.

On choosing his major: After four semesters of exploratory classes, I took an interest in PSCM because it offers a wide variety of potential career paths and is a rapidly growing industry.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Being able to maintain Dean’s List for five semesters in a row while being a full-time student, an athlete, and working part time.

Campus involvement: I am the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, captain of the men’s water polo team, a Lion Ambassador, and a member of the professional business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi.

What makes him unique: I am very adaptable. I moved to Texas in the summer of 2017 for a global supply chain internship with Alcon, A Novartis Division, without knowing anyone. I knew this decision was a risk in itself, but that is what it’s all about, leaving the comfort zone and seeing new places that hold great opportunities. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: I try to skydive at least once every summer.

His definition of the good life: Traveling the world, meeting new people, and living in the moment.

Lifelong park hopper: I am very passionate about major league baseball. From an early age, I have traveled the country with my parents to different ballparks. My goal is to see a game played in each one.

Advice for new students: Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of different organizations you can join. Take the first semester to explore and find some that interest you. Then, commit to get involved with those organizations. Try to take on leadership roles within those groups because it will benefit you in the long run.

Following his graduation in May, Troy plans to look for work as a global supply chain coordinator.

Standout Seniors: Meet Samantha Stauffer

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 couple months, 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 Samantha Stauffer:

samantha stauffer

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Bradford, Pennsylvania

On choosing Penn State Behrend: It was the first college I visited and I simply fell in love and knew that I was meant to attend Behrend. The campus was gorgeous, everyone I met was helpful and friendly, and I was given a plethora of information about expectations for the first year. I also have many family members in Erie, so it was practical for me to attend Behrend.

On choosing nursing: My grandma was a nurse at our local hospital for forty-two years. I grew up hearing endless stories from her. She was extremely influential in my life so I wanted to be like her and dedicate my life to helping others.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Completing the nursing program! Earning a nursing degree is incredibly challenging and extremely time consuming, so it is definitely a huge accomplishment for me to finally finish.

Campus involvement: I was involved in Lion Ambassadors, the Joys of Nursing Club, the National Society of Leadership and Success, the Random Acts of Kindness club, and the Spring Concert Committee. I also served as a Welcome Week guide.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I love to golf. Most of my family has invested a lot of time in golfing so it was only natural for me to follow in their footsteps.

Advice for new students: Get organized! One of my biggest mistakes in college was being disorganized. Take time to prioritize your classes, clubs, and organizations and be prepared for upcoming events and assignments. Staying organized is key to success in college!

Samantha has accepted a position as an emergency room nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie.

Standout Seniors: Meet Will Aldridge

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 couple months, 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 Will Aldridge:

Will Aldridge

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On choosing Penn State Behrend: I chose Behrend because of its highly-rated mechanical engineering program and the ability to have one-on-one interactions with professors.

On choosing his major: Both of my parents are engineers so it’s really the only thing that I’ve ever known. I actually graduated from University Park as a petroleum engineer in 2014. I worked in the petroleum industry for two years as a field engineer with Halliburton Energy Services, one of the largest oilfield service companies. I traveled throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio working on Marcellus and Utica shale gas wells for customers like Royal Dutch Shell, CONSOL Energy, and EQT. After two years, my facility in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was closed as a result of downturn in oil prices that occurred between 2014 and 2016. I was given the opportunity to transfer to a facility in Ohio but decided to turn down the transfer to return to school to become a mechanical engineer in order to open up a broader range of career opportunities.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I was a member of a team selected to work on a senior design project for NASA. I’m also proud to have been invited to compete in the 2018 Collegiate Innovation Showcase.

Campus involvement: I serve as the president for the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and I will be competing in the Erie Collegiate Innovation Showcase. I’m also a member of Dr. Shraddha Sangelkar’s undergraduate research team and will be participating in the 2018 Capstone Design Conference in Rochester, New York.

A willing coach: I like helping people reach their goals by encouraging them to go outside of their comfort zone and by sharing my experiences.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: Britney Spears follows me on Twitter, I’m an avid windsurfer, and I’ve attended four different Penn State campuses.

What he’s passionate about: Music and photography. I can’t wait to buy a drone.

Advice for new students: Learn to prioritize your time and develop good study habits. Take advantage of the opportunities that you have being a Penn State student by attending the Behrend and University Park career fairs even when you are a first year student. Companies love getting their hands on young talent and developing your skills through multiple internships.

After his graduation in May, Will plans to pursue a career in engineering design, product development, or industrial design.

 

Standout Seniors: Meet Jenessa Islas-Parker

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 couple months, 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:  Jenessa Islas-Parker:

Jenessa Isla-Parker

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Palatine, Illinois

Scholarships: I received the Penn State Behrend Academic Excellence Award last year.

On choosing Behrend: I visited Penn State Behrend at the invitation of Joe Tristan, the head coach of the water polo team. After visiting the campus, I fell in love. I realized Behrend was the perfect school for me because of the small class sizes, an amazing psychology program, and the ability to play water polo at the collegiate level.

On choosing psychology: I was 15 years old when my older sister was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She is the reason that I decided to study psychology. I became very interested in people, especially in how we function and why we struggle sometimes.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I was on one of the nine research teams that was selected to represent Penn State at the Undergraduate Research at the Capitol event in Harrisburg. My research team looked at the effects of gender on blame attributions in violent crime scenarios. We will be presenting our research at three conferences this semester.

On earning a degree in half the time: It was always my plan to graduate from Behrend in two years. I came to college with 47 credits from AP exams I took in high school. My plan still required taking more than the average amount of credits in order to reach my goal. I took six or seven classes each semester and took two courses over the summer to reach the required number of credits necessary for my degree.

On playing water polo, too: At one point, I was taking 20 credits while in water polo season. This meant I had two- to three-hour practices each day and was traveling each weekend to compete in tournaments. I often did projects on the airplane or went back to a computer lab after a late practice to finish a paper. It was certainly challenging, but it was also very rewarding.

jenessa

Campus involvement: I am a member of the Behrend S.A.V.E. club, which tries to bring awareness to domestic or relational violence. I was also a mentor at the Autism Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania where I was able to spend time with the young clients, while helping them build interpersonal skills.

Tri-lingual: I am fluent in Spanish and intermediate in French. I learned Spanish growing up in a Mexican household and picked up French in school. I have a passion for languages, which I must get from my family because we all speak Spanish and my mother and sister speak German, too.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college. My parents worked very hard to give me opportunities that were not available to them. I am very grateful to have hard-working, motivating parents who did everything in their power to get me through college.

Who inspires her: My family is my biggest inspiration. My dad came from Mexico when he was 18 years old with nothing but the clothes on his back. He made a living as a seasonal worker, and now he is supporting my dream of going to college. My mom began working at 18 years old, and now she runs a very successful company. My sister has battled depression and anxiety for the past five years, but still continues to be successful in her work and social life. My family is the sole reason I am at college and graduating this year.

Advice for new students: Take advantage of the resources available to Penn State students! Resources such as the Academic and Career Planning Center and faculty members are here to help you. Also, be aware of the classes and course sequences required in your major. I almost had to stay an extra semester because of the sequencing.

After her graduation in May, Jenessa hopes to secure an entry-level job at the Federal Bureau of Investigations where she has been doing an internship for the past year. She plans to work toward being a Special Agent.