2010 Homecoming Court includes two engineering students

Despite their numerous time-consuming commitments and heavy course loads, two engineering students have found the time for one more activity this week: homecoming court.

Justin Ross, mechanical engineering senior, and Danielle DaSilva, bioengineering senior, both hold significant leadership positions in their respective extracurriculars. Ross serves as president of the Blue Band, and DaSilva is president of Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Both were nominated unknowingly for this year's homecoming court by their friends and colleagues.

Angie Raimondi and Alyssa Rohrbach, fellow sousaphone players of Ross, decided to nominate him because they thought he embodied the degree of excellence that Penn State strives for its students to achieve.

"The two of us thought Justin really deserved an opportunity like this," Raimondi, a bioengineering junior, said. "I've never met a person who works so hard in everything he does and still takes time to help out anyone who needs it."

Ross said he didn't know his friends nominated him until he received a notification e-mail and an application, which included questions about his involvement in organizations, his academic excellence, scholarships and awards he held, his community service involvement and his work experience.

From the application process, the Homecoming Committee narrowed the nominees down to 20, 10 male and 10 female.

"From that 20, they give you a call and invite you in for an interview, so at that point I was really pretty surprised I got a call back," Ross explained. "I was thinking, 'You're the band geek getting nominated for homecoming court.'"

After his interview, Ross said he was instructed to stay in his apartment that night to wait to be notified of whether he made the top 10.

"I went to Blue Band rehearsal, and at that point I hadn't heard anything, so I figured I didn't get it," Ross said. After rehearsal, he came back to his dorm room and had started his engineering homework when there was a knock on the door.

"We open the door and [Homecoming Committee members were] throwing confetti, they gave me a Burger King crown, carnations and a Hawaiian lei," he laughed. "It was pretty funny -- I was taken aback and not expecting it."

While DaSilva's friends also covertly nominated her for homecoming court, they used a different method: social media.

Keri Wolfe, chemical engineering junior, and Julie Behr, mechanical engineering junior, created a private Facebook event to gain nominations for DaSilva.

DaSilva said she was confused but excited when she found out she had been nominated for homecoming court through an e-mail.

"I found out afterward that some of my SWE friends made a Facebook group, got 100 people in the group and sent it out," she said. "When I told them I was nominated for court, they said, 'Oh, yeah, I forgot we nominated you for that.'"

In addition to SWE, DaSilva is a tour guide for Penn State Lion Scouts and is active within the Biomedical Engineering Society and Engineering Ambassadors. She has also been involved with the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and Homecoming the past three years.

DaSilva said coming from a high school graduating class of 180 people, where there were "top dogs," she is excited and honored to be recognized for her accomplishments at Penn State's large campus.

"It's really humbling to know that people do notice what you do on campus and appreciate it," she said.

Although Ross dedicates 25 to 30 hours a week to Blue Band and oversees all the other officers, he said he was surprised to have been chosen because all of the other members of the court are so involved.

"On the leadership side, I like to be humble as best I can and keep my head on straight," he said. "I like to give everyone else recognition -- I've had a lot of opportunities in my college career, and I like to pass it on to other people ? I guess that's what they were looking for."

Raimondi said she knows firsthand that it's not easy to do much outside of engineering classes, studying and homework, and that adding all of Ross's extracurricular activities is "simply amazing."

"Somehow, Justin is able to balance all of this without ever sacrificing the quality of his work and commitments," she observed.

DaSilva said she thinks being an engineering student on homecoming court is a rare and great opportunity. "It kind of gives me an opportunity to do a little bit of PR and say, 'Hey, engineers aren't like nerds,'" she quipped.

Ross agrees that the common image of engineers is changing, and the fact that two members of homecoming court are engineering students supports that.

"Engineers are becoming more social these days. In order to be successful in the career world, you need to be a lot more social now and be able to network and interact," he said. "It's nice to see there are two engineers on the court."

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Last Updated October 05, 2010