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Class of 2021
Celebrating OHIO's Class of 2021

Spring Commencement 2021 Student Features

Congrats, grads! 

Ohio University students are passionate, intelligent and driven. It's no wonder our alumni make a difference around the world.

Angela Adams 

Angela Adams

Major: Dual Master of Business Administration / Master of Sport Administration

While obtaining her undergraduate degree at a college in Michigan, Angela Adams was a four-year varsity letter-winning volleyball student-athlete studying economics and management. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue after graduation, but Adams knew she had a knack for the business world and a passion for college athletics. 

“I realized that I desired to work in a fast-paced, dynamic, and energetic work environment in college athletics,” she explained. “With this realization, I decided to apply for graduate programs in sport administration.” 

Adams will be graduating with a dual master of business administration and master of sport administration from Ohio University’s College of Business. The college’s dual MBA/MSA program has an incredible reputation in the sport business world, currently ranked number one in the world by “SportBusiness.” 

“The OHIO Sports Ad program raves about the ‘family’ like feel of the program, and that could not be truer,” Adams said. “I immediately felt the family atmosphere when I came to campus for my interview and never looked back. I am incredibly grateful to now be an alumna from this distinguished program in Athens, Ohio! I absolutely brag about OHIO Sports Ad and Ohio University to anyone that will let me. The program is one-of-a-kind, and I want everyone who is capable of handling the rigor of the program to experience it.”

Adams said the program and those who make it up have been instrumental in her professional development. From faculty, to graduate assistantship supervisors, every person, whether they realize it or not, helped her grow personally and professionally. 

“I feel confident in my ability to take on the sport business industry because of the preparation I received here at OHIO,” she noted. “Although quite challenging at times, the curriculum, course work and projects built a strong foundation for my career ahead.” 

But, it wasn’t just the tight-knit OHIO community that had an impact on Adams. It was the city of Athens as a whole. The Saturday morning Athens Farmer’s Market. Grabbing a late-night hotdog and chili cheese fries from O’Betty’s. And, like many first-year students will discover this fall, the scenery of Athens and Southeast Ohio is etched in your mind, forever.  

Adams will always remember the hikes and lake days at Strouds Run State Park; marveling at the beauty of OHIO’s Cherry Blossoms; and the hours she spent exploring the 21-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway.

While her last year of the program wasn’t ideal because of the coronavirus pandemic, Adams had a strong support system to power through. Adams said she’d be remiss if she didn’t shout out her classmates for helping her get through the last two years. 

“It has been quite the ride with the craziness of classes, trips, projects, COVID, and just life in general,” she added. “I am not sure if I would have been able to get through all that without them. I am also grateful for my two GA supervisors over the last two years, Natalie Wittmann and Jen Washko, for making me feel welcome in Athens and creating a work environment where I felt comfortable asking questions, taking risks, making mistakes, and growing as a leader in sport. 

“Finally,” she added, “I am thankful for the faculty of the Ohio Sports Ad Program for always putting the students first and for tirelessly working to create the best possible graduate program they can for us and the next generation.”

Adams hopes to pursue a career as an assistant director of student athlete support services at a Division I institution. She chose this path because of her phenomenal experiences as a student-athlete and as an academic advising graduate assistant in the College of Business this year. 

“Working 1:1 with students and helping them succeed in their life and sport is extremely fulfilling to me and I am excited to get started,” she said. 

Ashlee Blankenship 

Ashlee Blankenship

Major: Middle Childhood Education

Ashlee Blankenship didn’t know she wanted to be an educator until her first year of college. After tutoring students for years and seeing students succeed, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. So, Blankenship enrolled at OHIO’s Southern campus and will be graduating with a bachelor’s of science in education for middle childhood education mathematics and science with an associates of science. 

Blankenship has been on the Dean’s List every semester and was recently selected as a recipient for the Outstanding Student Leadership Award from OHIO’s annual Women’s Conference. She has also been a part of the Education Club, Electronic Media Club and the OMSAR Peer Mentoring Organization. Blankenship has also worked for the university as a student ambassador for two years where she helps incoming students, provides campus tours and helps run campus events.

One of her most amazing feats, however, has been balancing a between 18 and 20 credit hours per semester with working 20 to 35 hours a week. She said, 

“I watched myself grow and blossom into numerous roles and mature into the person I am today. I accomplished so many things that I never dreamed I would do.”

Blankenship is a first-generation college student and credits the support from her family and fiancé to helping her get through it. 

“I would recommend OHIO to anyone. The connections, opportunities, affordability, proximity and relationships with professors make OHIO a fantastic choice for anyone,” added Blankenship. “But just because I highly recommend OHIO, doesn’t mean it’s home for everyone. Find your home and flourish there.”

Weiler Harmon 

Weiler Harmon

Major: Music Production

Weiler Harmon always knew he wanted to tell stories through music or writing, so it’s only natural that he would be graduating with a bachelor’s in music production in the recording industry, a minor in journalism and a certificate in entrepreneurship. 

Harmon has worked with Brick City Records as the Director of A&R and with OHIO’s all-male a cappella group Leading Tones where he not only sang but served as public relations and publicity director and event booker for the group. He has spent time working with WOUB and Speakeasy Magazine, worked with the Nelsonville Music Festival and attended SXSW virtual last year. Harmon has also made the Dean’s List on several occasions. 

Harmon is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and made the move to OHIO for its fantastic journalism school and opportunities with the media arts and studies program. 

“Being so far away from home in Alabama was really tough, so was changing my major from journalism to MPRI,” said Harmon. “Both challenges made me question what I was doing, why I was doing it and if I should continue. Luckily, I was able to adjust and overcome these obstacles and I think college taught me just how adaptable I am.  I dropped myself in a single dorm in a brand-new place freshman year and carved out a completely new life for myself here.”

Harmon said he feels said to be leaving Athens, which holds such a special place in his heart. He said he might even miss it more than his hometown when he first moved to Athens just four short years ago. 

“There are not a lot of schools like OHIO. When I was growing up, this campus is what I envisioned when I thought of ‘college,’” reminisced Harmon. “Athens is such a special place, with such great, open-minded people and is this epitome of a college town. The school itself gave me so many opportunities to grow and learn outside of the classroom and I could not be more grateful.”

Harmon said his dream job is to manage a successful music artist and eventually own and run a concert venue to build a local music scene, but until then, Harmon will be moving to Nashville, Tennessee in May to pursue a master’s degree. 

Jalen Warren 

Jalen Warren

Major: Exercise Physiology

Jalen Warren has always been passionate about health, activity and the inner workings of the human body, so it’s no wonder he will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology.

“When I was young, I always thought I was going to major in biology to chemistry dur to my aspirations of becoming a physician. Yet, the things I was involved in included sports, being active and cool science projects at school,” said Warren. “A defining moment for me was my second semester of freshman year when my advisor told me I was going to have to take a fungi and bacteria class the next semester. I knew at that point it was time for me to switch from biology to exercise physiology.”

Warren has made the Dean’s List for seven semesters in a row, has been selected for the John Newton Templeton outstanding senior leadership award and will be graduating Summa Cum Laude this year, but he is most proud of his work with MAPS, or the Multi-Cultural Association of Pre-health Students, where he helps underclassmen reach success and create a path to a healthcare profession. Warren is also proud of winning the men’s competitive intramural basketball league and three on three tournaments during his time at OHIO. 

Warren has also been a part of the American Medical Student Association, Phi Delta Epsilon Pre-Medical Fraternity, the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students and the Athens Community Center as a volunteer. He has also been a research assistant at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and a personal trainer at WellWorks, but his dream job looks a little different. 

“First, I want to become an orthopedic surgeon working in an underserved community. Second, I want to own my own private practice while also being a team physician for an NBA team. Then, the ultimate goal is to own a hospital to assure that minority communities are receiving adequate care and to help close the health disparity gap,” explained Warren.

Warren also said that he just can’t believe how fast his time at OHIO has flown by. He shares to other students that OHIO has everything to offer, including invaluable memories, experiences and moments that aren’t part of the standard curriculum, but says you have to be ready and open-minded to take the leap. 

Warren credits his college experience to his mother and will be the first in his family to get to medical school. 

“Undergrad complete,” he said. “Doctorate loading.”

Sylvia Rios 

Sylvia Rios

Major: Master of Public Administration

Sylvia Rios firmly believes there is no perfect time to go back to school. She thinks if one wants to achieve their goal, they just have to do it and not let excuses stand in the way. With her graduation in May, Rios certainly embraced this philosophy.

Rios found out she was expecting her second child shortly after she started the fully online Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in 2018 . Determined to succeed, Rios pursued her degree while raising her children and starting a new job as a project manager in the Business and Growth Services department at Lorain County Community College. 

“For years, I was just waiting for a good time and that never came,” Rios said. “I wanted to show my kids that anything is possible if you try hard enough or you wanted it bad enough. So, I took the first step because it’ll only get harder to get that degree the older I get. Now, it’s all going to be behind me, and I will have a master’s under my belt.”

Rios was first motivated to learn more about public administration when she volunteered in the AmeriCorps after earning her undergraduate degree in international studies from Baldwin Wallace University. Inspired by her one-year service with City Year in Cleveland and a second year with VISTA in Oklahoma, Rios learned that her true passions lay in the nonprofit sector. 

“By serving locally, I felt really connected to my community and saw what I could do here,” she said. “It was an eye-opening experience and that’s how I knew I wanted to get my master’s. It worked out perfectly since the Voinovich School MPA Program would prepare me for any future role.”

Rios was initially attracted to Voinovich School’s MPA for its flexibility and 100% online instruction, allowing her to receive the degree from the comfort of home. She stayed because it incorporated everything she was looking for: leadership, economic development, communications and other components that would make her successful in pursuing a career in nonprofit management.

Through the coursework, Rios learned that leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors rely on effective partnerships with stakeholders. So, she became strategic and intentional in planning those relationships. She also learned how to use data to guide and develop processes. 

Rios credits development of these skills to her professors: Kate Leeman, director of strategic initiatives; Marsha Lewis, retired professor and senior associate dean; and Judith Millesen, online MPA faculty. The hands-on relevant coursework taught through peer learning, group projects and other innovative methods made her online degree much more fruitful. 

“It’s partnerships and collaborative strategies that make things happen, and it takes communication, shared resources, intentionality and foresight to plan those,” she said. “I’m so glad I chose the Voinovich School to advance my career.”

Paige McClain 

Paige McClain

Major: Ph.D. Early Childhood Special Education

Paige McClain did not always know that she would end up working in education, but a high school interest in general psychology managed to get her here. She was an OHIO post-secondary student throughout high school and, after graduating, went to the University of Cincinnati to further study the field. Missing Athens, she transferred back to OHIO where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. 

McClain spent a lot of time during her undergrad doing research and developed new areas of interest, leading her to get her master’s degree in early childhood special education. She then narrowed down her specialization once more and enrolled in OHIO’s Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. program with an emphasis on early childhood special education. 

McClain has contributed to numerous research projects with faculty and is a co-author on two published papers and a presenter of multiple presentations at national conferences. She has also been as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate special education classes. Recently McClain defended her dissertation and received notification that her first article written as a solo author has been accepted for publication.

“While I am proud of this work, I wanted to share my experience because I believe that OHIO strives to prepare individuals with relevant experiences and accomplishments,” said McClain. “OHIO’s faculty and staff have been nothing but helpful, encouraging and supportive throughout the many life stages that I’ve encountered during my educational journey over the years and for that, I am forever grateful.”

Landry Price 

Landry Price

Major: Applied Nutrition 

Landy Price knew that she always wanted to work with and help others, but she didn’t want to go into nursing or communications. On her orientation day, she learned about the nutrition major and never looked back. Now, she is graduating Cum Laude with a bachelor’s in applied nutrition and a minor in business administration. 

Price said that from the first day she toured OHIO, she knew this would be the place she’d call home. She said,

“Coming to OHIO was the best decision of my life and the lessons and experiences I have from this place will always be with me.”

Throughout her college career, Price has been involved with the Ohio Nutrition Club and has worked as a learning community leader and as a student success program assistant.

“I have learned what it takes to succeed and what it looks like when I challenge myself, and not to be afraid to try my best,” said Price. “I have also learned the importance of family and friends. Having a support system is a big key to success.”

Price is a first-generation college student and credits her family, friends and professors for helping her get through it, for the pushing and mentoring that has led her to where she is now. She says those lessons will carry with her for years to come. 

“I feel a big mix of emotions about graduating. It’s a very bittersweet feeling,” explained Price. “These were some of the best, formative and crucial years of my life. I value these past four years so much and will always look back on them and smile. Although I have loved these years at OHIO, I am very excited to graduate and move onto the next stage of my life.”

Henry Chimal-Dzul 

Henry Chimal-Dzul

Major: Ph.D. Mathematics

Henry Chimal-Dzul, an international student from Mexico, graduates this spring with a Ph.D. in Mathematics. His next step is Switzerland.

In Mexico, Chimal-Dzul earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mathematics. This spring, he earns his doctoral hood, a piece of academic regalia that dates back to medieval times. His will be lined with Ohio University green.

His dissertation research on various classes of algebraic structures called “rings” has yielded four journal articles, two of which have been published in prestigious journals in the field. Independently, he has also been conducting other research projects from which he has published three more journal articles.

Chimal-Dzul has been awarded a Swiss Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious scholarships granted by the Swiss government. Starting in Fall 2021 he will be at the University of Zurich, conducting further research in coding theory and cryptography.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

A: One of my favorite “ah-ha” moments was when I understood the definition of a Quasi-Frobenius ring. I remember my adviser, Dr. Sergio Lopez-Permouth, going over and over the same definition and explaining to me how Quasi-Frobenius rings look like Christmas ornaments. Every time he explained to me, I said to myself — and to him as well — “this time, I got it.” I did not lie about it, I understood the notion that time, but there were some details that I did not catch. Finally, in the Fall 2020, I understood the notion and I was able to reproduce his pictorial way to see Quasi-Frobenius rings using Christmas ornaments (see picture below).

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID?

A: The moment when I arrived in the United States five years ago—I was motivated and with strong feelings that Ohio University was just the beginning of my career as a researcher in mathematics. Now I look back and I cannot believe that the moment has finally arrived and I will graduate as a doctor in mathematics. It has not been easy at all, but these five years have been full of enjoyment and happiness doing what I love to do: research in mathematics.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?

A: I greatly appreciate all my professors at Ohio University as they sharpened my skills in many positive ways. In addition to the invaluable experience that my two advisers have given me, Professors Sergio Lopez-Permouth and Steve Szabo, I would like to recognize Professors Archil GulisashviliWei LinWinfried Just, and Vladimir Uspenskiy for their great lectures and vision about mathematics. From all of them I have learned more than just mathematics.

Professor Steve Szabo earned a doctoral degree at Ohio University and he is currently at Eastern Kentucky University.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A: Every graduate student must approve two comprehensive exams after the first year of being enrolled in the doctoral program in mathematics. Usually, a student takes one comprehensive exam per semester as the amount of material to prepare is extensive. I remember preparing for two comprehensive exams (Algebra and Analysis) in the summer of 2017 (after my first year in Ohio University). It was challenging to study more than 12 hours a day to prepare for both exams. In the fall of 2017, I took both comprehensive exams in Algebra and Analysis the same week. Some weeks later, I was notified that I mastered both. This has been one of the hardest moments, but this effort sharpened the character and working skills that I have now.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: My favorite memories have been always the four seasons at Ohio:

  • Spring full of flowers, the cherry trees, and the chirp of the birds.
  • Summer with hot temperatures like at the beach but without a beach.
  • Fall with trees changing from green to multiples tone of colors
  • Winter with a white snow that brings everything to life again.

I will miss all this after I leave Ohio.

Tessa Corio 

Tessa Corio

Major: Exercise Physiology

Tessa Corio took a human anatomy class in high school and knew right then that she wanted to study the body and pursue a career in medicine. Now, she is fulfilling that dream by graduating as a 2021 Outstanding Graduate for Exercise Physiology.  

“It was a field that would never stop challenging me,” said Corio. “I have always had a desire to use my problem-solving skills to help others and, when I stumbled upon the physician assistant profession during an online search, it checked all the boxes. Exercise physiology was the perfect major because it allowed me to take the pre-requisites I needed, while also enabling me to dive deeper into my passion for exercise and fitness.”

In addition to being named an outstanding graduate, Corio has made the Dean’s List eight times and has received a certificate of appreciation from the department of biological sciences for her work as a teaching assistant in the human physiology lab. Corio is also a learning community leader, personal trainer and fitness instructor, and the president of the Pre-PA Club. 

Corio is most proud of how she has become involved in the OHIO community through her extra-curriculars and how she managed to make time for her academics and her own wellbeing. 

“When I look back at some of the toughest semesters, I honestly don’t know how I did it,” said Corio. She credits much of her success in school to her family and the friends she has made along the way. 

“I moved here from Maryland and really had no reason for picking OHIO other than it just ‘felt right.’ It did not feel familiar at first, but I knew it had the potential to feel like a second home, and I was right!” added Corio. “This school and the town of Athens are truly special. The students, faculty and citizens in general are kind and accepting and, no matter who you are, you can find your people here.”

Corio’s dream job is to be a physician’s assistant in women’s health and so far, her dreams are coming true, as she was recently accepted into the Medical University of South Carolina’s physician assistant program.

Gray Longfellow 

Gray Longfellow

Major: Music Production

Gray Longfellow is a music production major with a minor in business administration. They’ve worked with the Nelsonville Music Festival and Brick City Records, attended SXSW virtual and are the president co-chair of the student section of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), a former member of AVW as an on-set sound recordist and sound editor and a member of F-Word Performers. 

Longfellow has been on the Dean’s List every semester and received a Director’s Award last spring at the 2020 Virtual MDIA Award Show. 

“I’ve always been a part of a musical family,” said Longfellow. “At first, I wanted to work on films and video shoots, but I realized my passion laid more with music. In high school, I was a performer with our indoor percussion group and that’s where I got my first experience with live sound equipment and working with synthesizers. I really love making music and the process behind it, so that’s what steered me towards being a music production major. I choose OHIO because it has one of the best music production programs in the country.”

Longfellow said that their family and friends have been crucial to helping them get through college, as well as the music production faculty, including Josh Antonuccio and Eddie Ashworth, who helped Longfellow to find their path. 

“My dream job is being able to make music, work with audio and collaborate with others, whether that’s as a freelancer or with a label. I’d like to work with podcasts, film and game audio too,” Longfellow added. “In the future, I’d like to create a platform that focuses on supporting LGBTQ+ artists and bringing them opportunities to reach more listeners and fans.”

Longfellow said that some of their favorite memories have been made at OHIO, especially during recording sessions, but they’re excited to move on and finally enter the music industry. 

“I’m emotional leaving Athens and the place I’ve built so much of my life around these last four years,” remarked Longfellow. “I’m going to miss Donkey Coffee - a lot. I’m going to miss the whole vibe of uptown Athens.”

Carter Fee 

Carter Fee

Major: History

Carter Fee took advantage of a wide menu of history and geopolitics programs at Ohio University as he prepared for a career in the Air Force.

In addition to Air Force ROTC and work, Fee majored in History, with two minors: Political Science and Aerospace Studies. He also tackled four certificates: Middle East and North Africa, Islamic StudiesWar and PeaceAfrican Studies.

Q: What are your next steps/future plans?

I will be heading to Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas to become an Intelligence Officer for the USAF. From there, who knows.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?

My favorite professor was Dr. John Brobst, who I had for both History of Afghan Wars and History of Sea Power. I love how info-packed his lectures are and especially enjoyed staying after class with him to discuss current military events. He also wrote a lecture of recommendation for me that helped me get assigned as an intel officer.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

The first year I made the dean’s list proved to myself that I could manage a busy schedule of classes, work, and ROTC and still perform well. That’s when I knew, “I’ve got this.”

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

Second semester freshmen year I was doing too much and got burned out. I began feeling lazy and unmotivated. When I performed less than great on an exam, I realized I needed to take time to reorganize my priorities. After I took the time to do this, my motivation returned.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

My favorite memories are the ones I shared with my friends. Making snow in my freezer freshman year and having a snowball fight in April in the middle of West Green. Riding on the bike path with my girlfriend when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Celebrating with my friends when Ohio beat Virginia in the NCAA tournament.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss? 

Don’t stay in your room by yourself all day! Go out and eat on Court Street or hang out in hammocks in Emeriti Park. Just spend time enjoying college and all the great things around campus.

 

Paola Sofia Muñoz Gamboa

Paola Sofia Muñoz Gamboa

Major: Master of Environmental Studies

For Paola Sofia Muñoz Gamboa, sustainability and eco-friendliness have been at the forefront of her Ohio University experience. Two years living in the Ecohouse, an OHIO residence focused on green technology and sustainable living, was a perfect backdrop for completing her Master of Science in Environmental Studies through Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. 

Muñoz received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Costa Rica. She focuses on the conservation and preservation of protected areas, and her work has taken her across Latin America, including ethnographic research in Nicaragua, ecological research in Mexico and environmental consulting and policy work in Costa Rica. She has also worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Costa Rica, taught biology in a Costa Rican scientific high school and environmental sustainability to students in an exchange program in Costa Rica. She chose to pursue her MSES at Ohio University to gain expertise in the social sciences and environmental policy.   

“Teaching with the exchange program gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about my country and my region,” Muñoz said. “I'm really thankful that I could pair all that practice with more profound studies at Ohio University.”

At Ohio University, Muñoz was a graduate research assistant to Dr. Geoff Dabelko, Voinovich School professor, and worked with him on ecological security proposals while also collaborating with Age-Friendly Athens County, an organization that focuses on making Athens more livable for older adults. During her time living at the Ecohouse, she also completed a sustainability-related project each semester. Muñoz collaborated with the Women’s Center to educate women on the usage of menstrual cups as an alternative to disposable menstrual products for her first semester project. Her second project focused on creating flyers and handouts about biking regulations, and for her third project, she worked in the Ecohouse gardens. 

“In the Ecohouse, we really want to be more sustainable than the average student,” Muñoz said. “We're students, and we don't have enough money for buying expensive, energy-efficient appliances, but the university is giving us this opportunity to live in the Ecohouse and giving us all of that.”

Muñoz also completed her thesis this semester, which focuses on deforestation in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve in Nicaragua between 2010 and 2020. She found that the deforestation rate increased by nine times inside the protected area, while it decreased by half in the areas outside the reserve. 

Claire McGee 

Claire McGee

Major: Public Health and Spanish

Claire McGee is graduating with one bachelor’s degree in public health and the other in Spanish. 

“I was always interested in health care and saw a lot of inequity in my community through volunteering at a local hospital in high school,” said McGee. “The potential to implement population solutions to health issues was inspiring to me, so I chose public health. “

McGee said her passion grew even deeper after interning with a global health nonprofit in D.C. and began to build a concentration within maternal and neonatal health. As for her major in Spanish, McGee’s been able to intertwine her two interests, interning at a Danish nonprofit in Bogota, Colombia called Maternity Foundation. There, she completed a feasibility study for the implementation of an emergency obstetric and neonatal mobile app in Latin American and the Caribbean.

“I am really proud of the background that I have built in maternal and neonatal health. I’ve done some interesting work for maternal health nonprofits in research, fundraising and communications,” McGee said. “However, even with all of this work, I am really proud of my role at Ohio Valley Running Company here in Athens. I feel like I make a direct community impact through guiding people in their running and general wellness efforts.”

McGee has received a variety of different honors throughout her time here at OHIO. Among them are the Women’s Issues Leadership Award, being a Stanford University Innovation Fellows Design Challenge Finalist, being an Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge Finalist, receiving the Kenner and Margene Bush Cutler scholarship and making the Dean’s List every semester. 

She’s been involved with the Student Alumni Board, Students for Law, Justice and culture, Backdrop Magazine and the University Innovation Fellows, but said that in her freshman year, she was so excited and signed up for 14 clubs!

“I think I learned a lot about myself in college. One of the most important things I realized was my resilience,” said McGee. “College has been a very challenging time for me, both personally and academically, but with the support of the OHIO community and my friends, I was able to overcome whatever life threw my way.”

McGee strongly believes in using all the services that OHIO has to offer, such as Counseling and Psychological Services and the Survivor Advocacy Program, both of which helped her to make it through her college journey. McGee also had strong personal influences in her life that helped her along the way. 

She accredits two high school teachers she had in the OHIO College Credit Plus program for mentoring and pushing her to achieve all she has today: A Ph.D. student teaching English composition named Sarah Minor and Spanish professor Carissa Trapp. She also thanked her health sciences and Cutler Scholar program advisors for all their hard work, and her roommates for being her rock and emotional support. McGee said the Office of Global Opportunities has also given her more than what she could have achieved academically at her time with OHIO.

“I feel emotional about leaving my friends and growing older in general, but I am ready to graduate,” McGee said. “As a local, I am ready to see what the rest of the world has to offer and to expand my experience beyond OHIO. Of course, I’ve had some of the best times of my life here and have changed tremendously throughout the past four years, however, I am confident that I am more than prepared for the next chapter of my life. I may return some day – Athens has a way of bringing people back.”

 

KJ Russell 

KJ Russell

Major: Sport Management

KJ Russell is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sports management after just four short years at OHIO, where he not only gained valuable professional skills, but also unforgettable memories to carry with him throughout time. 

“When I came to Ohio University, I was a very timid and introverted individual struggling to figure out my place in the world and who I really was as a young man,” said Russell. “Ohio University gave me a place to grow professionally and personally with the support of every faculty member along the way.”

Russell has been involved with the Association of Multicultural Sport Professionals, Black Student Business Caucus, Sigma Alpha Sigma Mu and Ralph and Luci Sales Centre, and has worked as an Undergraduate Admissions Tour Guide, College of Business Student Ambassador, College of Business Career and Student Success Peer Coach, Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention Peer Mentor and Learning Community Leader. 

“I will miss the community the most,” said Russell. “Being able to walk around campus and see individuals that you know at any given time is a feeling that I appreciated over the past few years and will miss greatly wherever I end up.”

Russell hopes to become a certified sport agent in the NBA and NFL where he could own his own agency and provide services such as real estate, financial planning and multimodal communication services will be offered. He credits his parents, brother, friends, co-workers and mentors to his success throughout his academic career, as well as for his successes to come. 

“I’m extremely sad that my time in Athens is coming to an end, but I’m excited because I know the lessons and experiences that I’ve had throughout my time here has prepared me for whatever is to come.”

Shannon Hamelund 

Shannon Hamelund

Majors: Executive Master of Public Administration 

Shannon Hamelund’s experience in the Executive Master of Public Administration program has been marked by change. In addition to unpredictable adjustments from the COVID-19 pandemic, she also experienced personal change – specifically, living in four different locations while completing her degree. 

“As the spouse of an active-duty military service member, there has been a lot of transience in my life over the duration of the program,” Hamelund said.  “I applied for this program while living in D.C., flew to Ohio for residencies pre-pandemic, completed most of the program in lower Alabama, and am finishing it from Seoul, South Korea.”

Shannon was inspired to pursue a master’s degree by her experiences working with military organizations. Even before she married an active-duty service member, Shannon was interested in how government works and passionate about supporting military families.

She spent three years working in programs and volunteer management for the United Service Organizations (USO) in Germany and Washington D.C. For the past two years, while her husband underwent flight training at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama, Shannon worked as the district marketing coordinator for First Command, a financial planning company that works primarily with military service members and their families.

As an Athens native and Ohio University undergraduate alumnae, Shannon was aware of the fantastic education that the University could provide and the unwavering support from the professors and fellow students. That made the Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs a natural choice. 

The MPA program has given her insight into the reasons for creating policies and the decisions about implementing them. In addition, she has a better understanding of how to effect policy changes to support military organizations and service members and their families. 

Shannon is thankful for fellow students who shared similar passions and praised the Voinovich professors who invested in her success. Despite the changes she went through during her experience, Shannon is thankful she took the leap of faith and has gained both professional and personal self-assurance.  

Noah Powell 

Noah Powell

Majors: Biological Sciences

Noah Powell earns his B.S. in Biological Sciences – Cellular and Molecular Biology this spring. Then he’s headed to the Baylor College of Medicine’s cancer and cell biology program to get started on his Ph.D.

“Following my Ph.D., I will either remain in academia as a postdoctoral fellow or move into industry as part of a biotechnology company,” he says.

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID?

A. How fast the four years went by. When I think back to my freshman or sophomore year, it does not seem like all that long ago, and I cannot believe I am already about to leave OHIO.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? 

A. My favorite professor that I have had is Dr. Soichi Tanda. I took both his introductory biology course as well as his developmental biology course. One of the key things Dr. Tanda taught me was application. Applying the knowledge that you learn in the classroom is paramount for success and impact in the field, and Dr. Tanda engrained that aspect of biology in me during my first semester at OHIO. This was eventually one of the driving factors that lead me to get involved in research, which has now culminated in my own undergraduate thesis project.

 

Additionally, I was an incredibly shy person my freshman year, and Dr. T was the first professor I was able to have conversations with and connect with on a personal basis. He helped me feel more comfortable and at home at OHIO. I am incredibly grateful to have met him so early on in my academic career.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

A. Up until the second semester of my sophomore year, I was painfully shy and nervous about everything from getting to class on time to having conversations with people I did not know. However, during my sophomore year, I landed an RA position in Luchs Hall. During my time there, other staff members reached out and made me feel welcome. I gained confidence in my social abilities due to the interactions I had with residents and housing staff members. Now, I feel empowered in my ability to interact professionally with others in my field as well as casually with my peers once I graduate from OHIO.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A: The most difficult challenge that I have faced is writing my senior honors thesis. Due to COVID, the labs closed down for a long period of time. During this time, I had hoped to progress on my planned experiments, but the closure made it impossible. Once I regained access to the lab, I ran into numerous road bumps in my planned experiments. I had to push through the setbacks and find alternative ways to achieve the same goal. This taught me to be flexible and adaptable in both the lab environment as well as in day-to-day life.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A. My favorite OHIO memory is going to Strouds for hiking and kayaking. I have gone on numerous occasions, and it is always a fantastic way to unwind and have a bit of fun with friends. Hiking up at the Ridges is also one of my favorite activities, especially in the summer.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss? 

A. I would tell new students not to miss the little things. It is very common for new students to skip out on their freshman year convocation, involvement fair, class picture, homecoming football games, or even little events that their RAs put on. These opportunities are once in a lifetime. When you get to your last semester here, you are going to look back and wish you had participated in them.

 

Eli Wanner 

Eli Wanner

Major: History

Eli Wanner, who is headed to Duke Divinity School after a gap year, graduates this spring with a bucket full of memories and a true sense of accomplishment, along with a healthy dose of how to manage his time and wellbeing.

Wanner is earning an Honors Tutorial College History degree and a Certificate in Law, Justice, and Culture here at Ohio University.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”

A: That’s hard to say as well. It could’ve been my freshman year when I was hired as a research scholar at the Voinovich School (the job started at the beginning of my sophomore year), which has been a really eye-opening job opportunity and helped me build some great connections. Or it could have been the same year, when I went on my first backpacking trip with Outdoor Pursuits (we went to the Red River Gorge) and discovered a new hobby.

Or it could have been my sophomore year, when I studied abroad in Northern Ireland during spring break and got my first taste of transatlantic travel (I also started dating my fantastic girlfriend, who is also a Bobcat, that year).

Or it could have been my junior year, when I completed the requirements for the Certificate in Law, Justice, and Culture and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

Or it could’ve been this year, when I got really involved in a local church and started to grow my connections with the broader Athens community off campus. In short, my time at OHIO has been full of “I got this” moments — those moments when I felt like I was really taking major steps in my personal growth and preparation for the future.

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID?

A: I wasn’t expecting to graduate in the midst of a global pandemic, and it is disappointing to end my undergraduate career this way. On the other hand, I feel a special sense of achievement from completing my senior year despite the challenging conditions imposed by COVID-19. And, since I’m going to grad school, it won’t be my last chance to experience a “normal” graduation ceremony.

Q: What are your next steps/future plans?

A: I plan on taking a gap year here in Athens to build up some work experience, and then I will be attending Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., to get my Master of Divinity. I plan on being ordained as a pastor in the United Methodist Church, and I’m really excited to take the next steps toward that goal at Duke.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? 

A: This is a really difficult question; I’ve had so many good professors during my time here in Athens. The History Department at OHIO is full of great professors who truly care about their students, and it’s been a privilege to earn my degree under their tutelage. If I had to pick a three, though, it would be Dr. Kevin UhaldeDr. Miriam Shadis, and Dr. Paul Milazzo.

Dr. Uhalde was my interviewer when I applied to the Honors Tutorial College, and I’ve taken a good number of classes with him. He and his dry wit have been a part of my entire undergraduate education. Similarly, Dr. Shadis was the best adviser I could’ve asked for, and I always enjoyed meeting with her and talking about life — she is so invested in her students. And Dr. Milazzo has been an excellent thesis adviser, allowing me to claim my thesis work as my own while simultaneously providing me with new research leads and useful knowledge — even while he was on sabbatical last semester!

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A: The hardest hill I’ve climbed here? I’d say the lesser-known Witches’ Hill right out of town. But jokes aside, I think the most challenging thing for me was to learn how to manage my mental wellbeing. My time at OHIO was the first time that I had to really think about my mental health; college presented me with a lot of new pressures (social, work-related, and educational) that caused some anxiety and depression.

Sometimes it was difficult to keep up with all the demands on my time and energy, and I got very overwhelmed. I went to OHIO’s Counseling and Psychological Services a couple times, which definitely helped put me on the right track, but I think what helped the most was the advice and companionship of my friends and the support and understanding of my professors and employers when I had to re-prioritize my workload to make it more manageable.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: One of them was “J-Lob Prom.” My freshman dorm, Johnson Hall, decided to throw a faux prom in Read’s lobby. Full disclosure, I thought it was kind of a lame idea, and I had a headache that night. But my friends convinced me to go anyway, and I’m glad I did because that’s where I met my now-girlfriend; she was still a senior in high school at the time, and she was in Athens that weekend visiting a mutual friend. We went to USD (Union Street Diner) after and then took a long night walk on the bike path, and the rest is history. So that’s one of my favorite memories now — both because of the personal story and because it encapsulates Athens life for me (campus activities, local restaurants, and outdoor activities).

Another favorite memory is taking the rock climbing REC class with some friends. Ever since then, I’ve been a pre-COVID regular at the Ping rock wall, I’ve gotten into outdoor climbing, and this year I’ve become a regular at the Blockhouse bouldering gym just out of town in the Plains.

And yet another great memory was my spring break study abroad trip to Northern Ireland. It was such a cool experience. I got to visit Giant’s Causeway (a bucket list item), have some really nuanced conversations about the Troubles, and experience a new culture and new food.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?

A: Definitely give Outdoor Pursuits (headquartered in Ping) a shot. You may find that outdoor hobbies aren’t for you, but on the other hand you might find a new hobby that you love. Their programs are definitely more oriented toward beginners — now that I’ve been climbing and backpacking for a few years, I find they’re a bit below my level. But I’m still a huge supporter of OP’s camping trips because they’re what got me to take outdoor activities more seriously, and I would wholeheartedly recommend trying out a program to any new students.

And I know you said “one” thing, but this is really important: build good relationships with your professors. I promise your education will be 10 times better if you connect with the people teaching you (and it helps when it’s time for recommendation letters, too).

Shasta Kamara 

Shasta Kamara

Majors: Marine, freshwater and environmental biology

Shasta Kamara, a senior marine, freshwater, and environmental biology major, will be starting her master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Biology next fall at Nichols State University in Thibodaux, La., where she will be working on the invasive Asian carp problem.

But she got her start in research at OHIO, where she has been working in Dr. Molly Morris’s research lab since the fall of 2019.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?  

“One of my favorite ah-ha moments at OHIO was when I finally was able to fully grasp the scientific concepts in my lab meetings,” says Kamara.

“Being new to a lab is often intimidating and hearing all the scientific jargon and big ideas being discussed was always so impressive to me. When I first started, I set out to have just as solid of an understanding of the concepts as the graduate students, as they were great role models in scientific understanding. After around a year of being in the lab, I finally had the ah-ha that I was fully participating in scientific discussions and even adding valuable contributions to them!”

Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? 

“I greatly appreciate all my professors, in addition to my guidance from Dr. Molly Morris and my supervisors at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, I would have to say some of the most influential professors in my career so far have been Dr. Mark LucasDr. Janet Duerr, and Dr. Matthew White. Dr. Lucas did an awesome job teaching physics material, and his passion for physics always showed in his lessons. This left me wanting to be just as passionate about my career! Dr. Duerr tackled teaching cell biology with just as much passion and was always incredibly animated when teaching and showed me that scientists should go outside the box and find more ways to make learning fun.

“And Dr. White passed on the life lesson that if given the chance, always try the fish! Dr. White and his incredible knowledge of fish gave me the confidence that I could go on to do the same. I also want to mention that all these professors made learning amid a pandemic much more enjoyable.”

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories? What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?  

“Some of my favorite OHIO memories are the moments with the people at Ohio University. Taking time to talk with professors, fellow lab members, and peers has given me a more complex view of life and has furthered my learning experience. I would tell a new OHIO student, do not miss out on the people! Professors at OHIO are incredibly engaged in their fields and have so much knowledge to share with you, get involved with your professional field early, and make connections with those around you,” Kamara says.

 

Rosemary Oaks 

Rosemary Oaks

Major: Doctor in Osteopathic Medicine

Rosemary Oaks has always known that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine and has had an interest in dermatology ever since she was a little girl flipping through her mother’s textbooks googling at the different types of rashes. 

In high school, Oaks searched extensively for the perfect university and ended up choosing OHIO for its Honors Tutorial College, Early Assurance Program and the fact that both of her parents and her grandmother are bobcat alumni. She earned her bachelor of science in biology and will be graduating this year with her doctorate in osteopathy from the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Oaks plans to move to Florida this summer to begin her new position as a resident physician. 

“I hope to one day practice general dermatology in a community outpatient clinic,” said Oaks about her dream job. “I want to ensure my career incorporates surgeries, cosmetics and a broad range of dermatologic pathologies, and I want to form genuine connections with my patients and co-workers and really enjoy my job.”

Oaks said that she always hoped to find a career that is fulfilling and forces her to learn and accept new challenges, all of which are encompassed in medicine. She believes that OHIO has beyond prepared her to tackle these things as she continues onto the next steps of her career. She said that she will miss most about Athens the community of faculty and students, as well as the fall season and Bagel Street Deli. 

“It feels surreal that everything is coming to an end after all this time, but I am feeling excited and eager to take on the next steps,” said Oaks. “I have spent most of my life in Ohio and the last seven years as an OHIO student, so there are a lot of big changes happening as I transition to life as a resident physician in Florida, but I am grateful for the wonderful memories and excellent education that OHIO has given me.”

Amy Mehlman Strope 

Amy Mehlman Strope

Major: Doctor in Osteopathic Medicine

Amy Mehlman Strope initially thought that she’d become a veterinarian, but somewhere along her college journey she uncovered a passion for helping humankind. 

“There was one experience that was particularly disheartening to hear and truly motivated me to pursue primary care,” said Mehlman Strope. “My grandmother told me that she was afraid to ask her doctor a question about her medical condition because she felt she would be wasting their time because she wasn’t ‘educated’ enough. At that point, I took it upon myself to one day create an environment that encourages patients to advocate for themselves and their care, to ask any questions, and to embrace the autonomy of their medial care and decisions, especially including end of life care.”

After seven years in college, Mehlman Strope has earned her bachelors in biological sciences and is graduating this year with her doctorate in osteopathic medicine, but her journey hasn’t been an easy one. She said that during her freshman year for both undergraduate and medical school, she struggled significantly with imposter syndrome and adjustment disorder, feeling out of place, unqualified and foreign in her new environment. 

“Some days were particularly challenging for me to find motivation and to see a clear goal because of how debilitating those negative thoughts could be, but after realizing my actions were self-isolating, unhealthy and problematic, I reached out to close family and friends for support and comfort,” said Mehlman Strope. “I am thankful to have a great support system who helped me get out of my head and to get through these difficult times to realize my potential and redefine myself, my goals and my self-worth.”

Now Mehlman Strope is eager to make a difference with her work in healthcare, especially in the large language and education barrier that exists in the current healthcare system.

“I have always dreamt of being a doctor and this dream is finally becoming a reality,” said Mehlman Strope. “I truly just want to build strong relationships with my patients, help save lives, educate people and motivate them to advocate for themselves and their healthcare.”

Some of Mehlman Strope’s favorite things about OHIO are the people, the campus, the culture and the food, all of which she will miss dearly. Despite this, she is joyous and excited to begin this new adventure. 

“Graduating with my doctorate in osteopathic medicine marks my final journey as a student, but my learning will never cease,” said Mehlman Strope. “I pursued this career to become a lifelong learner and I am ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”

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