Penn State honors 12 with Alumni Achievement Award

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in AlumnInsider, the Penn State Alumni Association's monthly member e-newsletter. You can click here for information on becoming a member, and can follow the Alumni Association on Facebook and Twitter for more stories and updates on events. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — What do a Boeing intellectual property leader, a lighting designer and a handful of entrepreneurs have in common? They all graduated from Penn State before launching their careers.

These 12 prominent alumni, 35 years of age and younger, are the latest group of young alumni to be recognized with the Alumni Achievement Award, presented this month by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Recipients are nominated by an academic college or campus and invited by the president of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students and the Penn State community. Alumni Achievement honorees demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age.

At a dinner on March 27, each award recipient will receive a commemorative medal designed by internationally recognized artist and 2007 Alumni Fellow Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, 1972 graduate degree. Honorees also will meet and talk with students on the Thursday night before the event at the Hintz Family Alumni Center, and many will guest lecture on Friday, sharing insight on their successes in life and business.

Following is a brief description of each honoree. Full bios of these recipients will be posted online soon. Read bios of past recipients here.

Sharifa T. Anozie, 2008 in College of Communications, is a writer and the owner of The Sacred Word, a jewelry company. Anozie interviewed prominent civil rights advocate Carolyn Goodman, and her poem dedicated to Goodman was recognized by major media outlets. She has interviewed celebrities, including film director Spike Lee, CNN's Piers Morgan, actor Idris Elba and Grammy-winning artist Ne-Yo. Anozie worked on assignments for CBS on "The Early Show," "48 Hours," BET's "106 & Park," and the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric." She is an editorial assistant at The Hollywood Reporter magazine, writing for print and online and covering red carpet events and awards in Hollywood.

Rebecca Allen Delaney, 2006 bachelor and graduate degrees in College of Engineering, with honors from the Schreyer Honors College, is a mechanical team leader for the design firm of Skidmore, Owens and Merrill’s sustainable engineering studio in Chicago. She served as lead mechanical engineer for the recently proposed world’s tallest office tower in the Middle East and the Chicago Police Department. Delaney partnered with the Energy Defense Fund to educate commercial professionals on opportunities for energy savings and sustainability. She mentors engineering students, both locally and globally, through the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentoring Program and numerous humanitarian agencies. Delaney is a founding member of the Penn State’s College of Engineering’s Young Alumni Advisory Board.

Christopher Fanini, 2012 in College of Information Sciences and Technology, is the co-founder and chief technical officer of Weebly, an application for creating a website, blog or online store using the intuitive drag-and-drop method. Weebly offers a special version for teachers and students to build free websites for classes and projects. Weebly was named one of Time’s 50 best websites of 2007 and has been featured in major media outlets including Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal,Entrepreneur, NBC and the BBC. VikiTech, Business Insider, and InGeek have featured Weebly as one of the best Google Chrome apps. Fanini is an active participant and supporter of the College of Information Sciences and Technology’s Start-Up Week.

Andrew Giffin, 2005 in Intercollege, with honors from the Schreyer Honors College, is a lighting designer whose work spans television, film, theatrical productions, music festivals and concert tours. Currently he is associate lighting designer for singer, songwriter and actress Ariana Grande’s 2015 world tour. He programmed Justin Bieber’s "The Believe Tour" and has programmed and directed lighting for iHeart Radio, South by Southwest and Coachella. His stage lighting design for Get On Up was covered by American Cinematographer magazine. He programmed the NHL’s 2015 All-Star Game and the "Poker Dome Challenge" (FOX). Giffin has presented lectures and seminars at Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University and to the American Institute of Architecture Students.

Aaron M. Gotwalt, 2004 in Intercollege, with honors from the Schreyer Honors College, is the co-founder of Orphid, a venture-funded company focused on the future of mobile interaction. Gotwalt co-founded other successful entrepreneurial endeavors, including CoTweet, an enterprise platform that pioneered the way large organizations adapt to the rapid rise of social media and the ways that brands and individuals interact; and Seesaw, a mobile product designed to help users make decisions with input from their friends. Gotwalt’s entrepreneurial journey began at Penn State, where he founded and grew a company that provided content management systems for non-profit organizations. He has since been involved with entrepreneurship alumni panels at Penn State. 

Ryan J. Healy, 2006 in Smeal College of Business, is the founder and president of Brazen Careerist, a Washington, D.C.-based technology company that enables organizations to hire top talent and provides professionals with the tools to achieve their career goals. He has grown Brazen Careerist by more than 100 percent annually since 2011 and has been named one of the 20 Entrepreneurs to Watch by Worth magazine; one of Washington, D.C.’s Top Entrepreneurs Under 40; and one of the Top 25 Online Influencers in Recruiting. Healy remains active in the Penn State community, having served as a panelist for a May 2014 Smeal Business Club of Washington, D.C. event.

Kim Kingsley, 2002 in College of Communications, is the chief operating officer for POLITICO, a nonpartisan political media company that provides in-depth coverage of the White House, Congress, politics and policy. She oversees all of POLITICO’s strategic and business operations and has expertise in editorial, marketing, business and strategy, making her one of the rare new-media thinkers with a 360-degree understanding of how to envision, build and run a journalistic enterprise. Under Kingsley’s leadership, POLITICO has been recognized by Fast Company magazine as among the most innovative and creative companies in the industry. Last year, ELLE magazine named Kingsley one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C.

Katherine A. LaBelle, 2006 in College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is the executive officer for the National Weather Service's (NWS) Office of Communications, and is responsible for internal and external communications strategy, messaging and implementation, and supporting NWS leadership participation in external events. Previously, she was selected for a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) leadership program, providing advice on agency management and fiscal issues, serving as the liaison in interagency meetings, and coordinating action within NOAA and the Department of Commerce. LaBelle advises and advocates for the newly formed Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Department of Meteorology.

Raymond P. Mastre, 2004 in Information Sciences and Technology, is a director of SAP Security consulting at PwC, where he specializes in assisting companies running the SAP software package to design a security architecture that reduces internal employee theft. In 2007, he joined New Kensington’s advisory board and was elected board president in 2013—the youngest president and the first campus graduate to fill the position. He previously led the Penn State Alumni Association's New York City Chapter. Mastre recently established a Trustee Matching Scholarship for Information Sciences and Technology students at Penn State New Kensington. He regularly mentors and engages students through guest lecturing and mock interviewing.

Javier Moreno, 2007 in College of Agricultural Sciences, is manager of external affairs and communications for Toyota Motor North America, Inc. He serves as a national spokesperson and is responsible for establishing Toyota's public presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex through media relations, government affairs and community relations. Previously, Moreno served as manager of corporate communications at Toyota’s North American holding company in New York City, and as assistant manager of corporate and product communications for the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands in the Boston, New York, Central Atlantic and Southeast regions. Moreno joined Toyota in 2005 as a Corporate Affairs intern at Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, Inc.

KerriLaine Prunella, 2001 in College of the Liberal Arts, is the senior advisor to the deputy assistant secretary for human resources of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She counsels top leadership on human resources policy and strategy, and helps oversee public programs protecting all Americans’ health and well-being through programs across 11 divisions, with more than 92,000 employees. Prunella is an expert in highly complex and sensitive human resources issues. Prunella mentors Penn State students in the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Health and Human Development. She previously served as president of both the Penn State Alumni Association’s Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter and the Penn State Professional Women’s Network in Washington, D.C.

Emilia Speal-Harris, 2004 in College of Engineering, leads the Military Aircraft Intellectual Property Strategy Team at the Boeing Company, as well as Boeing’s Research and Technology’s IP Strategy division. In these roles, Speal-Harris develops and implements strategies to manage the company’s IP both nationally and internationally. She played a significant role in Boeing’s development of IP strategy practices and has been recognized at Boeing for natural leadership ability, technical prowess and business acumen. Speal-Harris earned a master’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University in 2008. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers; the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association; and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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Last Updated March 20, 2015