Engineering student Samantha Polons earns honor society scholarship

Penn State New Kensington engineering student Samantha Polons was selected as the 2012-13 recipient of the Frederick J. Berger Award by the Tau Alpha Pi engineering honor society.

Polons, a senior electro-mechanical engineering technology major, was recognized for academic excellence and community service. The $500 scholarship is named after Frederick Berger, founder of the national society for students in engineering technology. Berger endowed the award at Penn State 15 years ago.

“Samantha has consistently excelled in her academics while serving as an officer for not just Tau Alpha Pi, but other clubs on campus,” said Joan Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering and faculty adviser for the society. “She has undertaken several research projects as an honors option and presented her research at the annual Research and Creative Exposition that is held on campus every spring semester.”

Excellence in academics has been Polons’ calling card since arriving on campus in fall 2010. She studies in the honors program, researches as a member of the campus’ Chancellor’s Fellows program, and interns at Premier Automation in Monroeville. In addition, she works a half-time job during the school year and full-time during the summer. Her community service includes working with WEDIG (Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth) to help revitalize Westmoreland county.

“I am responsible for a large part of my educational expenses, so the scholarship helps to reduce the amount of student loans and the time I need to work during the semester, so I can spend more time on my classes,” said Polons, a product of Plum High School.

Polons covers tuition with a combination of scholarships, stipends, salary, loans and help from her parents. Despite the workload, she will graduate in May, earning her bachelor’s degree a year ahead of schedule. She carries a 4.0 grade-point average.

“I am trying to minimize the amount of post-graduate debt I will incur,” said Polons, who each year has received the top engineering award for her class. “With this in mind, I have taken heavy credit loads each semester in order to complete my degree in three instead of four years.”

Polons credits the fellowship and internship programs as the incentives for her to enroll at the New Kensington campus to earn an engineering degree. Faculty and staff draw praise for their support of her academic quests.

“I chose Penn State to earn an engineering degree, and the New Kensington campus to provide academic opportunities,” said Polons, an officer for the engineering and science student clubs. “The class sizes are small and personal. The teachers are knowledgeable and accommodating, and the assistance with internship opportunities was helpful and abundant. I work hard, but without the help of the teachers and administration, I would not be able to graduate in three years.”

Attending Penn State New Kensington may have been not so much of a choice, as a tradition. The Polons women, Samantha’s mother and two sisters, all attended the campus for two or four years before earning their Penn State degrees. The Polons men, her father and brother, are Penn State alumni but did not follow the New Kensington route, opting instead for four years at the University Park campus.

After graduating in May, Polons hopes to change her classification at Premier Automation from intern to employee. Premier is an engineered solutions company that specializes in providing automation, drive, and electrical control solutions and services to industrial markets.

For more about the Electro-Mechanical Engineering technology program, visit

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Last Updated February 26, 2013