College of the Liberal Arts selects spring 2019 student marshals

April 12, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At Penn State's May 4 spring commencement ceremony, 22 students will represent the College of the Liberal Arts as student marshals. Approximately 1,500 undergraduates will receive their degrees at the event, which will be live streamed beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar Brendan Bernicker is the college student marshal and commencement speaker for the college's ceremony. His faculty escort at commencement will be Christopher Moore, assistant professor of philosophy and classics. Bernicker is the son of Martha and Charles Bernicker of Villanova, Pennsylvania. He is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and political science, as well as a master of arts degree in political science. Bernicker was a Nevins Fellow and a recipient of the Rock Ethics Institute Stand Up Award; he also interned with the Centre County Office of the Public Defender and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Next year, Bernicker will attend Yale Law School and plans to pursue a career in public interest law and criminal justice policy reform.

Keep reading to learn more about the student marshals selected to represent the College of the Liberal Arts.

ANTHROPOLOGY

Anna Pearl Belinda is the daughter of Christine and Robert Belinda of State College, Pennsylvania. She is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and minors in psychology and geography. Belinda studied abroad in Scotland, South Africa and Cambodia; she was also a teaching and research assistant for the anthropology and psychology departments. After graduation, Belinda plans to work in an environmental psychology lab to investigate the interactions humans have with nature and will then attend graduate school.

ASIAN STUDIES

Cullen Edwards is the daughter of Greg and Paige Edwards of Waynesboro, Virginia. She is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in Asian studies and Chinese. Edwards was a teaching assistant for the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences and a cultural ambassador with the Nanjing University Exchange Program, and interned with Lifestyle Enterprises in China. After graduation, Edwards plans to find a career in linguistics or communications that incorporates her intensive studies in Mandarin Chinese and East Asian culture.

CLASSICS AND ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN STUDIES

Kyle Cornman is the son of Kathleen and Kevin Cornman of Harleysville, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, Cornman is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and international politics, with minors in Greek, German, history, and global and international studies. He studied abroad in Italy, Austria and Greece; he was also a Liberal Arts Envoy and served as captain and vice president of the Mock Trial Association. After graduation, Cornman will be a Fulbright Scholar. He plans to pursue his doctorate in classical studies in hopes of starting a career in higher education.

COMMUNICATION ARTS AND SCIENCES

Matthew Dabiero is the son of Beth and Ernest Dabiero of State College, Pennsylvania. A Schreyer Scholar, he is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in communication arts and sciences. Dabiero was the president of the Penn State chapter of Reformed University Fellowship and was also involved with Club Cross Country, THON, and various volunteering efforts. After graduation, Dabiero will complete a two-year internship with Reformed University Fellowship at Millersville University, where he will work alongside a pastor to serve the community.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE

Madeline Portzline is the daughter of Kathleen and Todd Portzline of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in English and comparative literature and a minor in French. Portzline was the secretary of the Newman Catholic Student Association and worked at the Beaver County YMCA as a summer counselor. She was also the Bednar Conservation intern for Penn State University Libraries. After graduation, Portzline will work before attending law school.

CRIMINOLOGY

Leah Martin is the daughter of Donald and Jennifer Martin of York, Pennsylvania. She is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in criminology and a minor in global security. Martin was involved with Club Swim, Penn State Justice Association, and the Liberal Arts Envoys; she also served as a research assistant for the Department of Criminology and as an intern for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s honors internship program. After graduation, Martin will work in the intelligence community and eventually plans to pursue a Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security through Penn State World Campus.

ECONOMICS

George Saleeby is the son of Hussam Saleeby and Lina Eid of State College, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, he is graduating with bachelor of science degrees in economics and finance, and a minor in French and Francophone studies. Saleeby was involved with Penn State Lion Ambassadors and the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity; he also interned with Bates White Economic Consulting and Co.Builders Startup Incubator and Accelerator. After graduation, Saleeby will join Bates White Economic Consulting as a full-time consultant.

ENGLISH

Jessica Sensenig is the daughter of Brian and Cecilia Sensenig of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in English and telecommunications, and a minor in music. Sensenig was involved with Penn State Flute Club, Star Wars Club, and the Division of Undergraduate Studies’ Leadership Council. She also interned for the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the Hemingway Letters Project, and was a writing tutor for Penn State Learning. After graduation, Sensenig will pursue her passions of writing, communications and music through work at performing arts centers.

FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES

Maria Fleck is the daughter of Susan Fleck of Wampum, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in French and Francophone studies and letters, arts and sciences, and a minor in psychology. Fleck served as the co-president of the Liberal Arts Envoys, the outreach director for Tetra, a student representative for the Liberal Arts Alumni Society Board of Directors, and a peer mentor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies. After graduation, Fleck plans to continue her studies at the graduate level in forensic linguistics.

GLOBAL AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

William Okrafo-Smart is the son of Rabiatu Yilla of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, he is graduating with bachelor of science degrees in global and international studies and psychology, with minors in economics and sociology. He served as an advanced facilitation coach for World in Conversation and a family leader and peer mentor for the BLUEprint Peer Mentorship Program; he also studied abroad in Australia and interned with iKhaya Le Langa in South Africa. After graduation, Okrafo-Smart will work for Teach for America before going on to a career in policy work, advocacy work, academia and/or social entrepreneurship.

GERMANIC AND SLAVIC LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

Celeste Belknap is the daughter of Bryant and Deborah Belknap of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in Russian and a bachelor of music degree in violin performance with a minor in psychology. Belknap was involved with the Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and served as the instrumental ambassador for the Performing Arts Council. She danced in THON 2018 and served on the executive board for her THON organization in 2019. After graduation, Belknap will spend part of the summer in Moscow, Russia, conducting archival research. In the fall, she will return to Penn State to pursue a master’s degree in music.

HISTORY

Melanie Kovacs is the daughter of Rebecca and David Kovacs of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in history and Jewish studies, a minor in art history, and a certificate in Holocaust and genocide studies. Kovacs was involved in community service through Hillel, served as a LINK mentor, and interned with the National Museum of American Jewish History; she was also a volunteer manager for the Penn State Men’s Hockey Ice Crew. After graduation, Kovacs plans to travel the world and attend law school.

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

Marisa Vanness is the daughter of Nancy McGowan-Vanness and Richard Vanness of Little Meadows, Pennsylvania. A Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in international politics, and a minor in French. Vanness served as president of Penn State Global Legal Empowerment, communications chair of the Penn State United Nations Advocates, and a clinical volunteer at Mount Nittany Medical Center. After graduation, Vanness will work while applying to medical schools.

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS

Tylar Smith is the daughter of Rocky and Angie Smith of Needmore, Pennsylvania. She is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in labor and employment relations, and a minor in media studies. Smith served as secretary for both the Society for Human Resource Management and the Society of Labor and Employment Relations; she also interned with Women in Business in the Smeal College of Business. Next year, Smith will continue working on her master's degree in human resources and employment relations at Penn State.

LETTERS, ARTS, AND SCIENCES

Nicholas Babich is the son of Andrea and Gregory Babich of State College, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, he is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in English and letters, arts and sciences, with a minor in Latin. He was a research assistant with three different faculty members. He was the founder and president of the Penn State Northern Studies Club, an academic group devoted to the study of languages and literatures from ancient and medieval Europe. After graduation, Babich will enter a doctoral program in medieval and Byzantine studies at the Catholic University of America.

PHILOSOPHY

Hope Wilson is the daughter of Darcy Wilson of Lemont, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, and a minor in English. Wilson studied abroad in France, worked for the University Libraries, and founded Philosophy in Conversation at Penn State, an organization that fosters interdisciplinary dialogue about philosophical topics and problems in an open environment. Next year, Wilson will pursue a doctorate in philosophy at Villanova University.

POLITICAL SCIENCE

Brian Friery is the son of Tim and Kathleen Friery of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with minors in history and sociology. Friery was a member of the Penn State Wrestling Team, and a counselor for the Penn State Wrestling Camp and the Ken Chertow Wrestling Camp. He was also a member of Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society. Next year, Friery plans to attend law school.

PSYCHOLOGY

Sophie Paolizzi is the daughter of Celeste and Vince Paolizzi of West Chester, Pennsylvania. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a minor in Italian. Paolizzi was the lab manager for Richard Carlson's Cognitive Psychology Laboratory and Kenneth Levy's Laboratory for Personality, Psychopathology and Psychotherapy Research. She was also a THON captain for the Penn State Women’s Ice Hockey Club, and a member of the Liberal Arts Academic Integrity Committee. Next year, Paolizzi will begin pursuing her doctorate in psychology at Penn State.

SOCIOLOGY

Mi Ni Tzou is the daughter of Bukam Tzou and Jen Su of Taoyuan City, Taiwan. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in sociology, communication arts and sciences, and history. Tzou was involved with the Presidential Leadership Academy and World in Conversation. After graduation, she will work in Taiwan and assist candidates who are in running in the 2020 legislative election; she will also apply to graduate programs in both sociology and public policy.

SPANISH, ITALIAN, AND PORTUGUESE

Seckin Kara is the child of Natasha and Ali Kara of York, Pennsylvania. They are graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and a bachelor of science in mathematics, as well as a minor in linguistics. Kara was a research assistant for the Center for Language Science, a lab consultant at Student Technology Services, and a Spanish tutor with Penn State Learning; they also received an NSF PIRE Grant to complete research in Spain. After graduation, Kara will work for Lockheed Martin in their software engineering department while attending graduate school part-time.

WOMEN’S STUDIES

Azniv Nalbandian is the daughter of Pars Nalbandian and Rosette Jacobson-Antico of Andover, Massachusetts. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in women’s studies and Russian. Nalbandian volunteered at Easterly Parkway Elementary School and was the captain and former president of Penn State Women’s Rugby Club. After graduation, Nalbandian will move to Denver, Colorado, to pursue her dream of playing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021. She will also apply to law school.

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Last Updated April 12, 2019