Outstanding Shenango students are honored at annual event

Picture of Mark, Joanne and Kate Erdesky at the 2017 Student Convocation Banquet

Kate Erdesky, far right, with her parents, Joanne and Mark Erdesky at the 2017 Honors Convocation and Recognition Banquet. Erdesky was the recipient of this year's Eric and Josephine Walker Award.

Credit: Penn State

SHARON, Pa. — Students of Penn State Shenango were honored at the campus’ 2017 Honors Convocation and Recognition Banquet for their outstanding academic and student leadership achievements and services. The recipients of this year’s Eric and Josephine Walker Award, Dennis W. Bartholomew Outstanding Adult Student Award, the Ann Wansack Award, as well as the Leonard R. Riforgiato Memorial Teaching Award and the Margaret Cunningham Foley Memorial Teaching Award, were also part of the program.

Presenters at the recognition dinner were Campus Director Jo Anne Carrick, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs Elaine Andrews, Assistant Director of Student Affairs Jammie Clark, and Associate Director of Admissions Chuck Greggs, as well as several faculty and staff who serve as club advisors. 

The first award presented was the President’s Freshman Award, which is given to full-time undergraduate students who have earned a 4.0 grade-point average in the first semester of their freshman year. The recipient of this award was Hunter Lilly of Volant.

The President’s Sparks Award is presented annually to those undergraduate degree candidate who have earned a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average based on at least 36 Penn State credits completed by the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. The recipient of this award is Andrew Craig of Hermitage.

The Evan Pugh Scholar award began in 1922 and was given to the top five persons in both the junior and senior classes.  The award is named for Evan Pugh, Penn State’s first president (1859-1864). The recipient of this award is Andrea Chalker, Warren, Ohio. 

The Robert Weber Mathematics Award honors the late Robert Weber who taught mathematics at the Shenango campus. This year’s award, presented annually to the most promising Shenango campus mathematics student, was given to Hunter Lilly of Volant. 

The Academic Achievement Awards, which are given to students in each college or degree program who have achieved the best cumulative grade-point averages during the academic year, were the next to be announced.  Priority is given to students who have been in their major for three semesters. 

The recipients included, beginning with baccalaureate-seeking students, Mikayla Cutshaw of Transfer, Administration of Justice; Kristen Laritz of New Castle, Administration of Justice; Gabrylle McGuire of Sharpsville, Agriculture; Keturah Gaines of Farrell, Business at Shenango; Lukas Farrell of New Castle, Division of Undergraduate Studies; Nicholle Yanak of Hermitage, Health and Human Development; Andrea Chalker of Warren, Ohio., Human Development and Family Studies; Kaylyn Wheeler of Jackson Center, International Business at Behrend; James Hancox of Sharon, Letters, Arts, and Sciences; Shannon Whitaker of Hubbard, Ohio, Letters, Arts, and Sciences; Terry Castleman of Sharon, Nursing; Karen Frantz of Mars, Nursing; Stacy Mainwaring of Aliquippa, Nursing; Susan Merz of Beaver Falls, Nursing; Gina Petrucci of New Brighton, Nursing.

Those students seeking associate degrees who were chosen for this year’s Academic Achievement Awards included Andrew Craig of Hermitage, Information Sciences & Technology; Ashten Crawford of Farrell, Letters, Arts and Sciences; Jennifer Nichols of Sharon, Occupational Therapy Assistant; Ashley Yavorsky of Greenville, Occupational Therapy Assistant; Dylan Taylor of Niles, Ohio, Physical Therapist Assistant; Lauryn Franklin of Grove City, Physical Therapist Assistant.

The following students were recognized for their high academic achievement with cumulative grade-point averages of 3.5 and above. They included Ashley Balas of Austintown, Ohio; Candace Beckman of Hermitage; Stephanie Berdis of Austintown, Ohio; Janette Berger of Mercer; Amanda Bombiani of Hookstown; Sabrina Cole of Wheeling, WV; Kristen Coonce of Kinsman, Ohio; Arissa Davis-French of Warren, Ohio; Tracey Dierkes of Wheeling, WV; Matthew Doddo of Transfer; Melinda Dunn of Hermitage; Michael Eaton of Cortland, Ohio; Alexandra Izzo of Hermitage; Jamie Kolch of Beaver Falls; Jordyn Kolesar of Niles, Ohio; Rebekah Krayzel of Hubbard, Ohio; Catherine Laughlin of New Castle; Leanna Lazenby of Erie; Kyle Mariacher of Mercer; Holly Masters of Cortland, Ohio; Cassandra McCowin of West Middlesex; Aubri McCoy of Volant; Donald McFarland of Masury, Ohio; Adrienne Megginson of Struthers, Ohio; Haley Morris of Hermitage; Leon Nichols of Sharon; Zane O’Brien of Mercer; Kelsey Pears of Stoneboro; Kevin Peretic of Masury, Ohio; Randy Reardon of Masury, Ohio; Chantal Redmond of Sharpsville; Cheyenne Richards of Mercer; Dawn Sausman of Grovetown, GA; Steven Schoenfeld of Canfield, Ohio; Alexa Sees of Masury, Ohio; Katherine Shacklock of Greenville; Jodi Shaffer of Monaca; James Sparks of Hermitage; Erin Stoops of Grove City; Jennifer Taddeo of Youngstown, Ohio; Joseph Vanasco of Wampum; Sheri Varion of Greenville; Jean Zarback of Garretsville, Ohio.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader. The foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. Scholarships are awarded to students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. Recipients, between 25 and 50 years of age, must have completed at least 12 credits in a degree-seeking program. They also have a cumulative gap in their education of at least five years, demonstrate a financial need, and show academic promise and commitment to obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The Osher Foundation Re-entry Scholarships were awarded to Bryan Artiles of West Middlesex, Leon Nichols of Sharon, and Shannon Whitaker of Hubbard, Ohio.

This year’s Honors Program certificates were presented by Elaine Andrews. These certificates were given to those students who have fulfilled the Honor’s Program requirements and have maintained an excellent grade-point average.  They are Alexandra Izzo of Hermitage; Holly Masters of Cortland, Ohio; Jennifer Nichols of Sharon; and Erin Stoops of Grove City. All four students received College Honors.

This year’s prestigious Eric and Josephine Walker Award was presented to Kate Erdesky of Hermitage. This award recognizes students from the University campuses whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship have been directed into programs and services that have positively influenced fellow students and have contributed to the prestige and well-being of their campus. 

Erdesky, who is a student in the Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA) program, is currently in Vero Beach, Florida, where she is completing her first, eight-week fieldwork. She began her career as a Penn State student during the 2004-05 academic year and attended Penn State until the spring of 2009. She has been a student at both the University Park and the Shenango campuses. After moving away and working in one of Maryland’s school districts, she returned to Shenango in the spring of 2015 and enrolled in the campus’ OTA program. Erdesky has been incredibly active on campus and has been an outstanding leader. She was a Lion Leader in the summer of 2016; the OT Club president during the 2016-17 year, where she helped to plan several events, including a trip to Philadelphia to attend a National Occupational Therapy Conference; partnered with Student Affairs to sponsor a March Madness Fitness Competition; served as a student representative during the interview process to hire the campus’ new Athletic Director; and was a recipient of the Student of the Month Award during this past year.

Erdesky's nominator had this to say about her, “Kate is one of those students who can help to make anyone’s day better just by seeing her smile. She’s always has a great outlook on life and always seems to be in a good mood, even when she’s swamped with responsibilities and class work. When Kate sets her mind on something she’s going to see it through no matter what. She’s a fantastic role model for her peers and I feel that Kate’s enthusiastic, dedicated, and caring outlook on life will take her far, wherever her path takes her. Whatever cause is close to your heart--you definitely want Kate on your side. She has been such an asset to the students, the faculty, the staff and the community, and I feel that she is very deserving of The Walker Award."

This year’s recipient of the Dennis W. Bartholomew Outstanding Adult Student Award was Shannon Whitaker of Hubbard, Ohio. The Outstanding Adult Student Award recognizes a student over the age of 21 who has completed at least 36 credits and who is distinguished by scholarship, service and success in coping with numerous roles and overcoming difficult circumstances in the pursuit of education. The award is funded by the widow of a former Shenango student, Dennis W. Bartholomew, who attended the campus from 1970-72 and graduated from the University Park campus in 1974 with a bachelor of science degree in engineering.

Whitaker graduated from Penn State Shenango with a degree in occupational therapy assistant (OTA) in December 2014, and has been working in the field as a per diem OTA while she is completing her baccalaureate degree in letters arts and sciences.

Her nominators had this to say about her: “She has consistently been an excellent student despite rigorous course content. Furthermore, Shannon demonstrated strong leadership and sensitivity to other students as evidenced by her willingness to help other students in the course with difficult material. It was apparent that she was both knowledgeable about content matter and was well-respected by her peers. She always strived to improve her knowledge about the world around her and she asked very probing and insightful questions about the coursework. Additionally, she always demonstrated impeccable organizational skills and positive interactions with classmates and me. Although Shannon had difficult circumstances thrust upon her by outside parties and events in her lifetime, she has been able to continue with her education and to improve her insight into herself.  My experiences with Shannon all point to strong academic capability, high ethical standards and personal integrity.  She has come a long way in the years she has been at Penn State Shenango and has made friendships and connections with its staff, faculty and students that will last a lifetime.”

This year’s Ann Wansack Award was presented to Kelly MacRae of Grove City. The Wansack Award was established in the memory of Ann “Mom” Wansack who was an employee at Penn State Shenango and a devoted friend to the students of the Shenango campus. The purpose of this award is to honor and recognize full-time students enrolled at Penn State Shenango who are actively involved, through leadership or participation, in the betterment of the campus. 

MacRae recently completed her freshman year at the Shenango campus, where she majored in animal science/pre-veterinarian. Her nominator had this to say about MacRae: “She has applied the leadership skills she learned as an officer in her local 4H Club during the short time that she has been on the Shenango campus, where she is the treasurer of the STEM Club. In this capacity, she is the most active of the officers in the club. In November, as a member of the STEM Club, she was a co-presenter of a hands-on chemistry workshop for thirty 4th and 5th grade Girl Scouts and also co-presenter of a STEAM Day session for 6th grade students from the Sharon School District. She also manned the STEM Club table at the campus's Halloween Party during the fall semester and has been selected to attend the ATHENA dinner later this semester. Finally, Kelly works very hard to achieve success in the classroom and is one of three CHEM 113 students who will be making a group poster presentation on research conducted this semester at the Penn State Behrend-Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference.”

The Leonard R. Riforgiato Memorial Full-time Teaching Award was presented to Katherine Shaffer of Mercer.

Shaffer has been an instructor in chemistry at Shenango since 2014. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she directs the youth STEM Camp and the annual STEAM Day on campus. Her research interests include chemistry outreach and Green Chemistry in Introductory Chemistry Laboratories.

Shaffer has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her undergraduate degree is from Allegheny College in chemistry.

The Margaret Cunningham Foley Memorial Part-time Teaching Award was presented to Kara Mild of Hermitage.

Mild has been a part-time instructor at the Shenango campus since 2010. She also works as a clinician where she treats women who are suffering from post-partum depression.  She has worked in various capacities in the mental health field for 17 years. 

Mild’s love for teaching and her expertise as a clinician enable her to help students bridge the gap between theory and direct practice. She has a masters of social work from Case Western Reserve University. Her undergraduate degree is from Penn State University in human development and family studies.

The Most Outstanding Club Member is an award given to a student who has made an exceptional contribution to the campus community through involvement with a club or organization. The 2016-2017 Outstanding Club member award was presented to Ron Cadman of Greenville. Cadman is the president of the campus’ Student Veterans of America (SVA) Club.

The Most Outstanding Club Advisor award is given to a faculty or staff member who has made an exceptional contribution to the campus community through advisement of a club or organization. The 2016-2017 Outstanding Club Advisor was presented to Associate Professor of History Phil Nash of Pittsburgh.

The Most Outstanding Staff Member award is given to a Penn State Shenango staff member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for a student club or organization at the Shenango campus. The 2016-2017 Outstanding Staff Member award was presented to Tech Service member Mark Erdesky of Hermitage.

The Most Outstanding Club award is given to a student organization that has made the most significant contribution to Penn State Shenango and the community. The 2016-2017 Outstanding Club award was presented to the Student Veterans of America (SVA) Club.