Eleven young Penn Staters honored with Alumni Achievement Award April 12

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eleven young Penn State alumni were honored for outstanding professional accomplishment and presented with the Penn State Alumni Association's Alumni Achievement Award at a dinner ceremony April 12 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus.

This year’s honorees work for nationally recognized organizations such as the New York Times, the National Earthquake Information Center and a popular website called CareerBliss. Some started their own companies and one works on the National Security Staff at the White House. These bright, young alumni stars will receive the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award for reaching an extraordinary level of professional accomplishment by the age of 35 or younger.

These bright, young alumni stars received the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award for reaching an extraordinary level of professional accomplishment by the age of 35 or younger.

Academic colleges or campuses nominate alumni who are then selected by a University-wide committee. President Rodney Erickson invites them to return to campus for several days to share their expertise with students and the University community. The Alumni Achievement Award began in 2005 and since then has honored 96 outstanding alumni.

This year’s Alumni Achievement Award recipients, along with their year of graduation, current title, place of employment and city of residence are:

-- David W. Boyce, 2001, CEO, CMI Industry Americas, Inc.; Youngstown, Ohio;
-- Matthew P. Brezina, 2003, co-founder and CEO, Sincerely; San Francisco;
-- Rebecca West Burns, 2002, 2008, 2012, assistant professor, University of South Florida; Tampa, Fla.;
-- Shaun E. Clair, 2006, CEO, Clair Broadcast; Lititz, Pa.;
-- Susan E. Dickinson, 2011, supervisor of the federal programs unit, Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy; Mechanicsburg, Pa.;
-- H. Jacob Hanchar, 2002, director, River Hill Coal Company; Pittsburgh;
-- Gavin P. Hayes, 2007, geophysicist, National Earthquake Information Center; Arvada, Colo.;
-- Matthew D. Miller, 2001, chief technology officer, CyberCoders; co-founder and chief technology officer, CareerBliss; West Hollywood, Calif.;
-- Laura M. Rosenberger, 2002, director for China and Korea, National Security Staff, the White House; Washington, D.C.;
-- Leon G. Shahabian, 2001, co-founder, vice president and treasurer, Layalina Productions, Inc.; Washington, D.C.;
-- Daniel H. Victor, 2006, staff editor for social media, The New York Times; New York City.

Erickson presented each Alumni Achievement Award recipient with a commemorative medal. The medal was commissioned by the Alumni Association and designed by internationally recognized artist Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a 1972 graduate of Penn State’s master of fine arts program and a 2007 Alumni Fellow Award recipient.

Following is a bio of each awardee. Full biographical information about these and past award recipients are on the Alumni Association’s website at www.alumni.psu.edu/awards/AAA.

-- David W. Boyce, 2001, is CEO of CMI Industry Americas, Inc., a leading supplier of steel-processing complexes for flat carbon steel production, as well as equipment for processing stainless steel and long products. Boyce joined CMI in 2008 as the vice president of engineering for CMI EPTI, LLC, a division of CMI Energy in Erie, Pa. CMI Energy provides heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) to gas turbine power plant customers around the world. In 2009, he relocated to CMI Energy’s corporate headquarters near Liege, Belgium, for 18 months as the executive vice president of engineering.

-- Matthew P. Brezina, 2003, is the co-founder and CEO of Sincerely, a mobile startup whose apps allow users to send gifts to friends and family. By 2012, Sincerely had 16 employees and over $3 million in venture capital has been raised. Brezina’s first startup, Xobni, had more than seven million downloads, and Bill Gates called it “the next generation of social networking.” Brezina is a member of the Schreyer Honors College External Advisory Board; has spoken at the Penn State College of Information Science and Technology’s Start-up Week; and advises Innoblue, Penn State’s student entrepreneurship incubator.

-- Rebecca West Burns, 2002, 2008, 2012, is an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, where she teaches in the Childhood Education and Literacy Studies Department. Her research comprises teacher education, supervision, professional development, and teacher leadership, with a focus on hybrid educators. She completed an internship on improving teacher development programs at the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Burns is a member of numerous professional societies and has earned a number of awards, including the Outstanding New Graduate award from the Penn State College of Education in 2002.

-- Shaun E. Clair, 2006, is CEO of Clair Broadcast, where he oversees business lines to the broadcast market. Clair Broadcast rents equipment and provides technical consulting to the entertainment industry. Clair has helped diversify the company into new business lines beyond audio, including backline and wireless, communications, video, and IT systems. Clair is also project manager for Aermonix, a new sound technology delivered to concert-goers via a smart phone application. He serves on the board of directors of Music for Everyone, a non-profit organization that strengthens the role that music plays in the Lancaster, Pa., schools and community.

-- Susan E. Dickinson, 2011, is the supervisor of the federal programs unit in the Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Her role requires her to stay in touch with the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as with other states, to work together in providing the best service to unemployment claimants who have held federal or military jobs. Dickinson was also the director of the Office of Unemployment Compensation Service Centers, where she oversaw eight state service center locations and more than 1,200 employees.

-- H. Jacob Hanchar, 2002, a director of the family-owned River Hill Coal Company (RHCC) in Central Pennsylvania, is a recognized international consultant on coal markets in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. He is revolutionizing an aging mining industry by incorporating green technology and has generated proof that coal-related pollution can be solved through natural biological methods. RHCC has solved environmental problems left from legacy operations and has helped reintroduce wildlife, such as elk and trout, into these reclaimed sites, winning national and state recognition.

-- Gavin P. Hayes, 2007, is a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), part of U.S. Geological Survey. The NEIC is responsible for the immediate, real-time analysis of large earthquakes worldwide; advancing methodologies for analyzing earthquakes; and relaying information to government agencies, emergency response groups, and the news media. Hayes is recognized in the seismology field for his profound impact on society by improving the understanding of earthquakes, and for developing and implementing tools for rapid, mission-critical response. As a Penn State student, he received the award of a research proposal funded by the ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.

-- Matthew D. Miller, 2001, is chief technology officer for CyberCoders, and co-founder and chief technology officer of its sister company, CareerBliss. Miller uses technology and company culture to transform the fields of executive recruiting and job search, resulting in thousands of people finding meaningful employment. His contributions to CyberCoders go far beyond the algorithms that have matched thousands of high-level professionals with competitive and technical positions in several industries. With CareerBliss, he works to uncover the influences affecting employee work happiness. Miller has returned to Penn State to share his knowledge and inspire students to pursue fulfilling work.

-- Laura M. Rosenberger, 2002, is director for China and Korea on the National Security Staff at the White House. After a rapid rise within the U.S. Department of State, Rosenberger was chosen in 2012 to join the National Security Staff, where she provides analysis and recommendations to the President and senior national security officials regarding policy on China and the Korean Peninsula. Rosenberger is an active Penn State alumna who provides career counseling and mentoring to former and current students. She received the Outstanding Young Liberal Arts Alumni Award in 2010.

-- Leon G. Shahabian, 2001, is the co-founder, vice president and treasurer of Layalina Productions, Inc., a 9/11 public diplomacy initiative to inform and influence millions of television viewers in the Middle East and North Africa. Shahabian is in post-production on the first season of Generation Entrepreneur, a youth entrepreneurship reality series, which he created, wrote, and is executive producing. He is also in post-production on the first season of American Caravan, a reality series featuring six young Americans traveling across the Arab world in the footsteps of the Arab Spring. Shahabian also has executive produced several documentaries.

-- Daniel H. Victor, 2006, is staff editor for social media for The New York Times, coordinating social media strategy with the Metro and Sports desks, and contributing to other projects that imbue social practices into the news-gathering process. He runs the @nytimes Twitter account weekly and responds to newsroom social media needs. Victor served as social media editor for ProPublica, an investigative journalism website that was a recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting. Victor is a board member of the College of Communications Alumni Society and has taken part in mentoring and job-hunting workshops for students.

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Last Updated May 14, 2013