Morgan Stalder and Laken Schodzinski have a lot in common.
They both are currently 23 years old and hail from the Ohio Valley. Stalder graduated from Martins Ferry High School in 2014, and Schodzinski finished at Wheeling Park in 2015.
They each had big dreams at an early age. Stalder wanted to become a doctor, while Schodzinski was determined to become a lawyer.
They both began their college educations at Ohio University Eastern while in high school, and each graduated with honors, only two years after high school. Stalder went full-time during her junior and senior years at Martins Ferry, and earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Exercise Physiology in 2016. Schodzinski attended OHIO Eastern full-time during her senior year at Wheeling Park, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science in 2017.
They both went to graduate school immediately after finishing their undergraduate education. Stalder matriculated to the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University in Athens, while Schodzinski was accepted into the Capital University Law School in Columbus.
Most recently, they were both recognized as the youngest graduates in their 2020 graduating classes. Dr. Morgan Jane Stalder is now a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). Laken Lee Schodzinski earned a Juris Doctor (JD), the highest education level available for legal studies within the United States.
Equally impressive is the fact that both Morgan and Laken were each recognized by their respective institutions, Ohio University and Capital University, for their overall excellence.
Morgan finished in the top 10% of her class and was selected as the Heritage College’s Memorial Health System 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year. This award recognizes academic achievement, community involvement, punctuality, and attendance, as well as a positive attitude toward challenges and professional behavior. Ohio University Chief Medical Affairs Officer Dr. Kenneth Johnson, D.O., said, “To be selected among your peers in Memorial Health System is a significant accomplishment. Your commitment, passion, and integrity are a source of pride for our entire Heritage College family.”
Laken earned the distinction of pro-bono honors by providing over fifty hours of volunteer legal work in the Columbus community. She also became deeply involved in the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), completing numerous certifications in the field: Parenting Coordinator, Guardian ad Litem, Mediation, Divorce Mediation, and Domestic Abuse Issues training, and has volunteered and attended conferences on related topics.
“Laken finished in the top one percent of her graduating class in pro-bono hours,” said Judge Terri Jamison. “She originally came in as an intern for Judge Elizabeth Gill in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division. Laken volunteered to do some assignments for me, adding to her workload. I found her work to be exemplary. She has a sound work ethic, which led to me hiring her as my law clerk. Laken has a bright future in the Domestic Relations practice area.”
The Bobcat alums are also very appreciative for the education they received at Ohio University Eastern.
“The undergrad education that I received at the Eastern Campus was excellent and fully prepared me for the rigors of medical school,” said Stalder. “I would like to give a special thank you to Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology Dr. Robert Galbreath, Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Mary Lenczewski, and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Mark Waters for challenging me daily in each and every class. They pushed me to the limit to ensure that I learned good study habits, which I depended on for success in med school.”
Schodzinski agreed. “I earned 90 credits at the Eastern Campus before finishing my last year in Athens,” she said. “I relocated to Athens out of curiosity. I wanted to see what it was like to be away from home, and also wanted to find out if the education was any different on campus in Athens.”
“Looking back, I can honestly say that both the Eastern Campus and the Athens Campus were equally strong academic experiences. Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Kevin Spiker and Associate Professor of English Dr. Pamela June were tremendous writing and researching influences on me while I was at the Eastern Campus. Their classes, in particular, prepared me for the challenges of law school.”
Stalder and Schodzinski were also proud that they were able to graduate debt-free while earning their undergraduate degrees. Stalder was particularly appreciative of the College Credit Plus program. “This dual-credit opportunity enabled me to get off to a great start and to complete two full years at the Eastern Campus entirely cost free, including books, while I was still a student at Martins Ferry.”
Stalder, who was named valedictorian of her high school class, was then faced with the decision of where to finish her undergraduate degree. “Many of my friends had decided to go away to college, but I knew, based on my academic experiences, that Ohio University Eastern was the place to best prepare me for medical school.”
“Plus, the tuition was affordable, and I was fortunate to receive a scholarship offer. I considered it an added bonus of being able to live at home and not rack up any room and board debt. In addition, I was also able to work for a local family physician near the college, which allowed me to gain significant clinical experience. Looking back, I could not be happier with my decision to attend OHIO Eastern.”
Schodzinski was also glad to begin her college classes while in high school. “Being from out of state, it was a little bit of a challenge for me to get started. Each course at Ohio University Eastern had to be approved for dual credit. I was fortunate, and am very thankful, that Wheeling Park Principal Amy Minch was supportive. She guided me through the process.”
“I loved being challenged by the faculty at OHIO Eastern. In a sense, it energized me. I went to school year-round and finished the majority of my credits in two years at the Eastern Campus, before finishing my last year in Athens. My goal was to enter law school early, and try to get my career started as soon as possible. Because of the opportunities at Ohio University Eastern, I was able to achieve this goal. I am proud of my experience at OHIO Eastern, and highly recommend it.”
Morgan and Laken have big plans for the future. Dr. Stalder will begin her internal medicine residency in June at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh, PA. During the three-year program, she will work and train as a resident physician, practicing medicine alongside the attending physician. Dr. Stalder is undecided on an exact career path, but is considering either pursuing a career as a hospitalist, or completing a fellowship to subspecialize.
One thing is certain, Dr. Stalder looks forward to begin working as a physician and helping patients of her own. She eventually plans to bring her care, compassion, and wisdom back to the Ohio Valley and making a difference in her community. “Serving the people of the Ohio Valley has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “I can’t wait for that day to arrive.”
Laken currently works as a judicial law clerk for Judge Jamison, with hopes of becoming a judge in the domestic relations division herself one day.
She credits her recent externship experiences with Judge Jamison and Judge Gill, along with an earlier externship with Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr., United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, for helping her to find her passion working in the family law judiciary system.
Laken is also most appreciative of Jim Bordas, the late co-founder of the law firm of Bordas and Bordas, for getting her started on this career path.
“Jim hired me as a student intern while I was still in high school,” she said. “He was a brilliant lawyer, but more importantly, he was kind and generous to everyone he met. Jim was a pillar in the community. I hope one day to follow his lead and be in a position to give back to the people of the Ohio Valley.”
Morgan and Laken are also very fortunate to have one final common thread. They both come from loving, supportive, and tight-knit families. Morgan finished, “I would especially like to thank my fiancé, parents, sisters, extended family, and friends for their love and endless support. I would not have made it this far without them.” Laken agreed, “I also want to thank my parents and family from the bottom of my heart. We talk every day and our love for one another is unconditional. I am truly blessed and am forever grateful for the support of my family. I could not imagine this journey without them.”