Senior Celebration 2020
"In the face of great challenges, you have supported one another in our University; you have shown great strength and fortitude; you have shown tremendous spirit; and you have shown what it means to be a Bobcat."
Seniors — take your moment. We want to know how you're celebrating this milestone moment in your life, and we want to celebrate with you.
Let us know how you're celebrating by tagging us and using #MyOHIOMoment on Instagram and Twitter.
Until next time, Ohio University
"The city with the best sunsets in Appalachia left a mark on me that I'm forever grateful for. I will end my time as a student with memories that I will cherish forever, understanding that I am always welcome back home."
To the Class of 2020
President Nellis is celebrating with you with his very own #MyOHIOMoment. In your honor, OHIO will be planting a special tree on each of its campuses. The trees will stand as a living testament to the Class of 2020. They will grow tall and strong, carrying on the legacy of this historic class of students. Always remember that your roots are here at Ohio University.
Ohio University students are passionate, intelligent and driven. It's no wonder our alumni make a difference around the world.
Major: Interior Architecture
Growing up, Alexandrea Amstutz was always intrigued by decorating and reconfiguring her bedroom. In a way, Amstutz knew that she’d end up studying interior architecture.
Her career path was solidified when she found her community in Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts.
“I chose Interior Architecture as my area of study because I have always had an interest in how design can effect and enhance our everyday lives, and I chose OHIO because it allowed me to express myself in creative ways I never knew existed,” Amstutz explained.
A first-generation student, Amstutz will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture with a minor in marketing. Over the past four years, Amstutz learned she can do anything she sets her mind to.
Her dream was to begin her career in New York City, and with the help of OHIO’s faculty, she will be doing just that. After graduation (and COVID-19), Amstutz will move to New York City to start her career as an interior designer at Whitehall Interiors.
“I want to be a part of helping enhance the lives of people through design,” she noted. “Interior design is where my passion lies so I feel that I will be happy and feel accomplished in no matter what I do. I would like to credit all of the faculty at OHIO who went that extra length for me and made me feel so empowered as a student. The faculty’s support and drive to expand my body of knowledge has made me the passionate designer I am today.”
Amstutz is more than a passionate designer, she’s a passionate advocate for the arts. Amstutz is a known fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts.
“I believe that the arts is such a special virtue that we value here at Ohio University and in Athens so giving back to these amazing events that our faculty work so hard to put on for us is really my own way as a student to say thank you to them,” Amstutz said. “Visiting artist and all open studios for undergrads is such a beneficial experience that we can’t afford to diminish.”
A member of the School of Arts + Design Art Ambassadors, president of Interior Architecture Design Group, president of Art Ambassadors, and a former executive member of Project for The Kids, Amstutz has made the most of her time at Ohio University.
She’ll miss time spent in Grover Center in the interior architecture studios, along with the lifelong friends she’s made and the relationships she formed with OHIO’s faculty. They’ve helped her overcome more than they might know.
“As young adults we all go through our own struggles and tribulations but with the support of the people we surround ourselves at OHIO can help us overcome anything. Sadly, my sophomore year, I lost my father unexpectedly,” Amstutz said. “With the help of my friends, and especially my professors, I was able to really dive deep into my studies and it really made a difference in my grieving process and overcoming that sadness.”
While she’s a bit emotional to graduate with the world in a state of uncertainty, Amstutz finds comfort in knowing she’s a part of the Bobcat Family for life.
“This is what home and community feels like,” she said. “If you want to leave your mark on a place and make a difference in your life and the lives of others, OHIO is the place where you need to be."
Major: Social Work; OHIO Chillicothe Campus
“Using my VA educational benefits was a way for me to achieve my dream of helping veterans.”
After serving in the Marines Corps, Matthew Bush worked in a variety of capacities but found that he wanted to start a new career. To his advantage, he learned that he qualified to go to school using his VA educational benefits.
Bush chose Ohio University Chillicothe because it was close to home and it offers a Bachelor of Social Work. While enrolled, he has worked in the Veteran Services Office on campus.
“I chose social work because I knew it was a degree in which I could help veterans,” remarked Bush. “I hope to help other veterans, like myself, navigate resources available to them after they complete their service and make meaningful connections to services in society.”
Following graduation, Bush plans to look for internships for graduate school; he has recently been accepted into The Ohio State University to obtain a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Bush says that his education at OHIO Chillicothe has allowed him to meet the demands of today’s evolving world and grow as an individual. “My experience is invaluable. The education I received from faculty and staff in various disciplines will help me to serve the community at large. They have taught me how to be a better professional and leader in my future career.”
Bush is a first-generation college student who attributes part of his success to his family and friends, as they have helped push him toward his goals and supported him throughout the process. He also commented that he is blessed to have been part of a great university, one that he owes for his success.
“I want to thank the excellent faculty and staff I have had the pleasure of being around for the last three years. They have positively impacted my life and with them, OHIO Chillicothe will continue to thrive in the future.
Major: Applied Management; OHIO Chillicothe Campus
“I found that I had to dig deep and keep chipping away, class by class, until I got my degree. There was a lot of adversity switching my major, but the hard work I put into college helped me succeed.”
Tyler Cartee, a first-generation college student, aspires to work for in the golf industry helping to sell, market, and/or develop equipment, or organize events. After graduating with his Associate Degree in Business Management Technology, Cartee continued with Ohio University Chillicothe to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Management.
Cartee choose to attend OHIO Chillicothe because it is close to home and affordable. Convenience was also a factor as he has worked while attending college classes.
“The professors at OUC have prepared me for my career,” remarked Cartee. “I believe the quality of my education is the same as going to a Division 1 college. I found it extremely helpful only having 25-30 students in my classes as I had more time with the professors if needed.”
Cartee started as a nursing student, but after some difficultly in class he changed course. He commented, “I really loved the program and I excelled in all my classes but Pharmacology. I later found that it was a lot of pressure so I switched to business. It’s a great fit for me because I am organized and I like to lead.”
Cartee is currently finishing his internship at Menards and looking for jobs in management. Particularly, he is looking for a position at Scotts Miracle-Gro. He plans to get a master’s in marketing so that he can further pursue his dream of working in the golf industry.
Excited and anxious to start the next chapter of his life, Cartee says he’s ready. “I will never forget my time at OUC as it was a great stepping stone toward my goals. But at the same time, I will miss college and the friends I have made over the years."
Major: Management and Strategic Leadership
Maddy Casey will advocate for Ohio University until she’s blue in the face. During her college search four years ago, it was the first and only university she visited. She just knew it was going to be her home.
“This college and the professors who help operate it have made so many opportunities available to me,” Casey said. “I never could have imagined gaining the knowledge and networking capabilities that I have now at another university.”
Q: What are your majors/minors/certificates?
A: My major is management and strategic leadership, with a minor in business analytics and a certificate in supply chain distribution.
Q: Why did you choose to study this?
A: I chose my area of study because I have always desired to be a leader. A leader is defined as, "one who inspires and motivates action to reach a common goal." Every new person I meet I try to identify one strong quality they have, and the role of a leader is identifying this quality and offering them the guidance to help them maximize it. The College of Business at OHIO is operated and supported by some of the most intelligent individuals I've met.
Q: Do you believe the University helped you reach your full potential?
A: Being a first-generation student, I heavily relied on my advisors my first semester. This has highly impacted my success at OHIO. They have connected me with alumni to offer me advice and guidance in my college career. Each of the advisors/professors/alumni that I connected with have consistently checked in on me and my progress. They've given me a sense of care that I never imagined receiving during my college experience.
Q: What was your role at the Innovation Center?
A: At the Innovation Center my role was to welcome our guests, schedule conference rooms, and assist the tasks of our staff members and clients. The Innovation Center is an added bonus of Ohio University. The professional relationships I have formed are key in my success. Each of the staff members have only shown me kindness and enhanced my knowledge. On the daily, the staff members will ask how I am or how classes are going and it is clear that they genuinely care about my answer.
Q: What are you going to miss most about Athens?
A: I am going to miss spending the spring season in Athens. This campus offers views all year round, but spring is when everything is blooming and coming back alive after the winter season. I remember people telling me that there's times when every town surrounding Athens will be rainy and gloomy and Athens will still be sunny and warm. I don't have an explanation for it, but it's true!
Q: You are graduating college! That is an amazing feat in itself. How do you feel?
A: Graduating from college is such a bittersweet feeling. I'm excited to see what the next season of life presents to me, but parting with OHIO is a hard pill to swallow. It will be the quiet mornings on campus and the active afternoons on College Green and Court Street that I'll miss the most."
Major: Nursing; OHIO Chillicothe Campus
“It’s a great feeling knowing all of my hard work and dedication is finally paying off.”
Owen Diehl began his journey at Ohio University Chillicothe in the fall of 2016. From the time he was a sophomore in high school he knew that he wanted to go into the nursing profession.
Because OHIO Chillicothe is close to home and affordable, Diehl knew the Chillicothe campus was the place for him. “With the scholarships made available to me, I obtained my bachelor’s degree debt free,” remarked Diehl.
Diehl choose to pursue nursing because of his own personal battle with cancer. When he was ten years old he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare type of non-hodgkins lymphoma. His tonsils had swelled up so severely he had to get a tonsillectomy. In turn, a biopsy was performed which determined the biopsy to be cancerous. After a few rounds of chemotherapy, he recovered.
“I knew from a young age I wanted to go into the healthcare field. While I was in Nationwide Children’s Hospital, all of the doctors and nurses made my scary situation better,” remarked Diehl. “In high school, I decided to become a nurse because I want to make patients who are scared of their sickness feel safe just like the nurses at Children’s did for me.”
Diehl plans to work in the critical care setting; however, after gaining a couple years of experience, he aspires to go to grad school to become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). He is currently in the application process for the Nursing Internship at Adena Health System.
As a first-generation college student, Diehl is honored to have had the opportunity to attend college and obtain a well-respected degree.
“The professors in the nursing program are wonderful,” commented Diehl. “They provided me with a plethora of knowledge and have challenged me academically, which has allowed me to come out of this program with confidence.”
Major: Social Work
Like many other seniors, Emily Durfey is not the same person she was when she first stepped foot on the campus of Ohio University.
Durfey is wrapping up her bachelor’s degree from the Department of Social Work in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP). She said that the last four years have greatly exceeded her expectations, both in and out of the classroom.
“Attending a university in the middle of rural Appalachia, OHIO has exposed me to many cultures and people that I would have never come into contact with if it wasn’t for Ohio University,” Durfey said. “This has taught me a lot about Ohio’s various cultures and has helped me become more sensitive to diverse populations.”
In the Social Work program, Durfey learned how to be an advocate and practiced that advocacy by being a voice for the community. She credits CHSP for preparing her to meet future challenges.
“CHSP prepares its students immensely for the future and has ensured that when students enter the workforce, they will be ready to hit the ground running,” Durfey said. “I’ve been given almost two years of experience in the field with internships and classes that taught me ethical guidelines and rules of social work to make me ready for the profession.”
Looking back on her time at OHIO, Durfey expressed appreciation for the opportunity to have worked closely with fellow social work peers. She also relished working in small classes and building friendships with people with similar interests.
“I have made such amazing memories with my peers, and I know that I will have friends and connections wherever I go in the future,” she said.
Durfey highlighted faculty and staff including Annelle Edwards, Lynnette Peck and Deb Pack for making a significant impact on her life. She also noted that Dr. Solveig Spjeldnes was a great influence who drove her to become a better student by having faith in her abilities and encouraging her to pursue a master’s degree.
After graduating, Durfey will remain at Ohio University and continue her education through the One Year Advanced Standing Master’s program in social work and will serve as a graduate assistant for the Survivor Advocacy Program.
“I’m incredibly thankful for Ohio University and everything that it offered me through the last four years, and I am beyond excited to get a fifth year in Athens,” she said. “Go Bobcats!”
Major: Ph.D. Civil Engineering
Sarah El-Dabaja received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in civil engineering from Ohio University, and she will soon be a three-time OHIO graduate, earning her Ph.D. in civil engineering from OHIO’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology. She defended her dissertation in December. El-Dabaja has been working at the Ohio Department of Transportation District 10.
“My job at the Ohio Department of Transportation has been a great opportunity to complement my academic experience with professional experience,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to grow as a professional while also staying connected to the world of academia through teaching and research.”
Q: Can you tell us why you chose your area of study?
A: I first considered pursuing civil engineering as a student in junior high. My family and I had just returned from an overseas vacation which had given me an upfront exposure to the poor infrastructure and living conditions that were the norm for so many people. The experience had such a profound effect on me that I felt an obligation to find solutions to the problems that I had witnessed. This desire to improve fundamental aspects of everyday living (e.g., housing, transportation) combined with my interest in math and physical sciences led me to the field of civil engineering.
Q: Why did you choose OHIO to study this?
A: Being a lifelong resident of southeastern Ohio, I had grown up around OHIO and felt very comfortable with the University. Several of my family members had also attended OHIO, including my grandmother, aunt, uncles, cousins, sister, and both my parents, so it might also be a family tradition! I can recall spending a lot of time on the OHIO campus even before applying as a student, sitting in on summer classes as a child with my mother and sister or participating in on-campus events.
Q: How has Ohio University helped you reach your full potential?
A: The friendly community atmosphere of Ohio University provided a comfortable learning environment in which to grow, while many faculty members helped me to achieve my full potential by pushing me beyond the limits of my comfort zone, challenging me with thought-provoking problems, and providing invaluable guidance and support to help foster solutions to those challenges.
Q: Did you have to overcome any struggles over these past few years during your studies?
A: While each phase of my academic experience posed challenges, finishing my PhD has by far been the most challenging. Throughout the course of my PhD experience, I was faced with juggling technical setbacks that delayed my research and committee-related issues while serving as an instructor for online and on-campus courses. Needless to say, combined with my family and (later) career obligations, it was quite a balancing act. Both my family and certain faculty members have been incredibly important to my academic successes. The support of my parents has been critical to my success throughout my entire academic career, and the encouragement of my parents, my husband, and my advisors has helped me weather the challenges of my PhD.
Major: Adolescent to Young Adult Integrated Language Arts
After trying on many different career hats (a chemist, a forensic chemist, an FBI agent), Madeleine Gervason realized becoming a teacher was her true calling.
It was, in particular, three teachers she had growing up who left such an impression on her. She remembers their passion for English, their commitment to their students, and most of all, their ability to make learning memorable and enjoyable.
Gervason hopes to leave a similar impression on her future students. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in adolescent to young adult integrated language arts from Ohio University’s Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education’s Connavino Honors Program, and a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing from OHIO’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“Teaching in a rural setting presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities to grow as an educator,” Gervason said. “OHIO has a phenomenal honors program that has allowed me to travel to places like Puerto Rico and South Carolina to present research projects and potential research project ideas. These programs have helped me grow and develop as a lifelong learner and to be a pioneer in my future career as an educator.”
In the fall, Gervason will be starting her English master’s program at Case Western Reserve University. She plans on working as a graduate assistant while teaching classes and working in the writing center.
Down the line, Gervason hopes to get her Ph.D. in English either in literature or language.
“I hope to become an English professor,” she noted. “I would like to study the development of the science fiction novel and the development of this genre in relation to changes and developments in science throughout history.”
A member of the Student Ambassadors for Patton College of Education and a member of the English Honors Fraternity, Sigma Tau Delta, Gervason challenged herself each semester by taking a full course load while student teaching during her junior and senior years.
Gervason pushed herself to be the best student she could be, so in a few years, she can be the best teacher for her students.
“I had to overcome some confidence issues in college,” she said. “I did not believe in myself and working with the professors at Ohio University and hearing their advice, having their support, and receiving their encouragement has taught me to believe in myself and to challenge myself. Ohio University and its faculty members in the Patton College of Education and the English and History departments helped me reached my full potential. Professors in all of these departments and colleges pushed me to think deeper and challenged me to think outside of my interests and to expand my horizons.”
Q: Can you tell us why you chose your area of study?
A: I am studying marketing, and it was not my first major in college but I switched after my first marketing class. I am interested in consumer behavior and what attracts people to certain products or businesses.
Q: Why did you choose OHIO to study this?
A: I actually started my college career at the University of Cincinnati, but every time I visited Athens it felt like home. I also heard great things about the College of Business so I decided to transfer. It was the best decision I've made in college.
Q: Do you believe the University allowed you to reach your full potential?
A: The opportunities I've had at OHIO such as internships and classes offered have helped me reach my full potential. The collaborative learning style allowed me to work with others and encouraged me to do my best. The faculty and staff at Ohio University have been nothing but helpful and encouraging.
Q: What is something new you learned about yourself in college?
A: I learned that there is no one path to success, everyone's is different. I learned that it's okay to transfer schools, change your major, and gain new interests. College, like life, is full of unexpected obstacles and that's okay! How you navigate the obstacles is what matters.
Q: Did you have to overcome any struggles while in college over these past few years?
A: One thing I struggled with in college was not knowing what I wanted to do after. After talking with many students, I realized I was not alone. I found out that as I learned more and had new experiences my interests changed. College is about more than getting an education, it's about finding yourself through coursework, clubs and activities, and new experiences.
Q: Can you tell us about what you will be doing after you graduate?
A: I am staying at Ohio University for the One-Year MBA Program. I am very excited to be here an additional year!
Q: Do you credit anyone in your personal life for helping you get through college?
A: My mom has gotten me through college. She is supportive and taught me to never give up. I will be a third generation OHIO graduate! (My grandmother, my mom, and now me).
Q: Can you tell us about your work with the Innovation Center?
A: I am the student marketing and communication coordinator at the Innovation Center. I have learned so much while in this position and it has prepared me to excel professionally. I have also had the opportunity to work with IC Client, Nature's Magic. At Nature's Magic, I have learned all the work that goes into a startup. I have been able to work on many projects and gained experience in sales, marketing, and market research.
Before Marija Giglio was even born, she was on her way from Italy to the United States. Her parents immigrated from Malta, a small island off the coast of Italy, to America in 1997 when her mother was pregnant with her.
A first-generation American born in Buffalo, New York, Giglio had only lived in the state of Ohio for two years before visiting Ohio University. It was the first time she felt content and at home.
“The environment of OHIO has always made me feel safe and at home, and the faculty only added to that,” Giglio said. “The college size is perfect, it is just large enough where you see new people every day walking through campus, but you never just feel like a number in your class. OHIO exposed to me to amazing opportunities, and I met my best friends here. The University also gave me hundreds of hours of student teaching, starting as early as my sophomore year. I learned a lot from the mentor teachers I had over the years.”
After visiting her mother’s classroom in Columbus while in high school, she knew she wanted to pursue education. She originally entered as an early childhood education major, but in her second semester, Giglio took a class about adjusting curriculum for students with disabilities which really interested her.
Giglio switched her major to special education shortly after that, and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in special education for mild to moderate needs in OHIO’s Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education’s Connavino Honors Program. Students complete a thesis as a part of the program, and Giglio’s thesis, “Mediated Representation of Students with Autism in Netflix’s ‘Atypical,’ explores how the representation of students on the spectrum mirrors that of real life.
“I used both my experiences in the classroom and research to compare it to the show ‘Atypical,’ which centers around a student with autism,” Giglio explained. “It explored both the harmful and beneficial effects of mediated representation and discussed its implications for both general and special education teachers in the modern classroom.”
A year before completing her thesis, Giglio’s junior-year workload became extremely heavy. There were times she truly didn’t think she’d be able to make it through college.
Giglio also has epilepsy, and although it is not severe, there were several times throughout her four years where her medications and seizures would put her on hold academically.
“However, with the help of faculty and supportive friends at the University, I made the Dean’s List both semesters of my junior year,” she said. “My family was also a huge support system during this difficult time.”
Giglio, who was a part of Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity and a member of Student Council for Exceptional Children — an organization that helps to serve schools and adults with disabilities in the area — will be attending grad school at The Ohio State University in the fall for dual certification in teaching the visually impaired and applied behavior analysis, a practice commonly used for students on the spectrum.
“My dream job is teaching the visually impaired in a public school, and maybe later in life open my own practice to help families going through their child being diagnosed with autism,” Giglio said. “I feel incredibly emotional about graduating college, especially because it ended so abruptly and unexpectedly. I have loved every second of my time here, even the extremely challenging moments. Although I am sad to leave, I am excited for my next step and think the University has really prepared me for it.”
There’s 7-year-old Jake Hromada, who spent hours listening to Cleveland baseball and basketball games on the car radio with his dad. He’d hear Tom Hamilton’s home run call, “A swing and a drive!” and he’d feel the thrill in the passenger’s seat. He could feel the dunk in the car when Joe Tait exclaimed, “WHAM with a right hand!”
He wanted to try those calls out for himself. Hromada would belt a ball into his neighbor’s yard and say, “A swing and a drive!” He’d dunk a basketball through the plastic hoop hanging on his closet door and would repeat that iconic call, “WHAM with a right hand!”
Then there’s 24-year-old Jake Hromada, doing exactly what 7-year-old him always dreamed of doing. An Ohio University graduate student, Hromada is the assistant director of broadcasting for Ohio Athletics. For the past six years, since his undergraduate freshman year, he’s been the play-by-play broadcaster for OHIO volleyball, women’s basketball and softball.
Hromada has been telling stories on ESPN3 and the radio since he was 19 years old, calling more than 300 Division I games.
“I know anybody, students and some professionals older than me, would kill for the opportunities I have. Ohio Athletics gave me that chance, they gave me a purpose. I loved waking up and rolling into the Convo to see what needed to be done,” he said. “It’s just been hard having to accept letting go of the people I work with, the fans I’ve met, the student athletes who let me share their stories and the parents I’ve met. All of them gave me a purpose here, and I could not be more in debt to them. In the play-by-play industry, Division I work is hard to find. It takes years to get to that level and do it at a high caliber.”
Hromada is graduating with a master’s in journalism from OHIO’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Soon, he’ll be leaving Athens — a place that feels more like home than where he grew up.
But, don’t remind him of that. He might get a little emotional, as he’s been dreading leaving Athens for the past year.
“This place, and its people, stole my heart. A piece of me will forever remain in Athens, Ohio. I find peace knowing I’ve prepared some undergrads to fill my spot,” Hromada said. “This place carries so much tradition that it’s foolish to not give it a glance. The local businesses are out of this world. Court Street’s bricks have been walked on by generations and generations. It’s so cool to be a part of this place and its tradition. Let Athens happen in your life, because it changes you for the better.”
If you ask him, Athens and Ohio University have certainly changed him for the better. Hromada learned that he can actually put himself out there and not drown if he’s outside his comfort zone. He proved to himself he’s not uncomfortable in a room where he knows no one. And, while he’s hesitant to leave, Hromada knows he’s prepared for life after graduation because of the faculty in Scripps.
“They challenge you academically and they’re your biggest cheerleaders,” Hromada noted. “As far as Ohio Athletics, they’re like my family. They let me grow, they gave me a lot of creative freedom and they put trust in me. It was awesome to gain real world experience with them all these years. I’m forever in debt to them.”
He hopes to land a job similar to the one he’s held all these years, being a voice of a school or team and telling their story.
If he has to miss more holiday gatherings because he’s at a tournament or on the job, Hromada’s family will know where to find him.
“My mom and grandma listen to all of my broadcasts,” Hromada said. “They know I’m doing what I love. My dad works a lot in order to support us and allow us to live out our lives, I’ll never forget his sacrifices so that I can have a good life. After all, this is his fault I love radio and play-by-play, he started it!”
Major: Management Information Systems and Business Analytics
“Smallest Big School.” If Ian Koenig were to give a new tagline to Ohio University, that would be it.
As a prospective student four years ago, Koenig heard a lot from current OHIO students about the “Bobcat Family.” He thought it was cliché, like many people do.
“It actually turned out to be the most important aspect of our culture here,” Koenig explained. “Bobcats continuously do the most they can for their fellow Bobcats, even past graduation. It’s what I have come to appreciate the most, and will miss the most, as I move to a much larger city. With over 25,000 students, OHIO is not a small university by any means, but the people here and the faculty make you feel much more a part of that than you might feel at another school.”
Koenig is graduating from OHIO’s College of Business Honors Program with a degree in management information systems and business analytics and a minor in psychology. Come July, Koenig will be working as a solutions specialist for Microsoft in New York City. He will be working specifically with the integration of Microsoft Office 365 and Modern Workplace Devices into client offices.
Though just a few years ago, business school wasn’t even on his radar. It wasn’t until he received a letter from the College of Business Honors Program that he considered business as an option. A cross country runner in high school, he was determined to become a physical therapist.
“I knew how versatile a business degree was, it would only be four years of school instead of eight years of school to become a physical therapist, and the Honors Program came with a scholarship so the decision was easy for me,” he added. “To this day I still believe that I made the right decision.”
Throughout the past four years, Koenig has learned more about himself than he ever imagined. Most notably, he realized his leadership potential.
Koenig is the senior class representative for the Honors College of Business; the president of Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity; and he served as a lead researcher for numerous projects in the College of Business’s Center for Consumer Research and Analytics.
“In high school, I held no positions on any teams or in any organization and pinned myself as this goof-off kind of kid,” Koenig noted. “It wasn't until I came to college and found things that I am extremely passionate about that I saw my ability to be a leader.”
His time at Ohio University might have been cut short due to the coronavirus, but Koenig is ready for his next chapter. He credits his parents, peers, girlfriend and several OHIO faculty members for helping him get through college — and having a shoulder to lean on along the way.
“As I head into life after college it seems like life gets a little more chaotic. My time here has allowed me to see the importance of the small things that OHIO students do for each other that I am incredibly grateful for. The small moments that I don't even think twice about now are the ones I think I will end up missing the most.”
Major: Wildlife & Conservation Biology and French
Imagine hiking around the rugged mountains and deep glacier-carved valleys of Yellowstone National Park for two weeks. You’re viewing the spectacular beauty of almost half of the world’s geysers, and maybe catching a glimpse of grizzly bears, bison and elk. But, you’re not on a family vacation. You’re taking an Ohio University class.
That was OHIO senior Sam Kukor’s experience in an environmental geography course he took one summer with Dr. Harold Perkins.
“In addition to sharing in the wonders and beauty of the national park itself, we learned about the ecology, politics, and social interactions surrounding the management of the park and its natural resources,” Kukor said.
Kukor is graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in wildlife & conservation biology and French, with a minor in environmental and plant biology in OHIO’s College of Arts & Sciences. He found in his senior year of high school that biological sciences just clicked for him, and he’s kept up with French since his sophomore year of high school. Kukor really tested his language skills during a five-month study abroad stint in Grenoble, France.
His areas of study are clear with the appointments he’s held over the past five years: president of the French Club, vice president of Wildlife Club, and a member of Critical Error and Plant Club. A fifth-generation college student, Kukor plans on taking a few years off before attending grad school.
After that, Kukor isn’t certain what career he wants to pursue, but an ideal job would be a research technician or a naturalist.
“Countless nights studying in Alden Library with my friends really made it clear that I’m pretty good at explaining ideas and concepts in digestible ways, and that I enjoy doing it,” he explained. “It’s a big reason why I think I’d really enjoy working as a naturalist, or maybe even a teacher way down the road.”
He got a taste of how to communicate complex information in a way that everyone could understand this past month during OHIO’s Virtual Student Expo. What usually is an outstanding in-person event with hundreds of students presenting their research was unfortunately moved online because of the coronavirus.
Kukor had to take his large poster filled to the brim with information and figures, and crunch it down into a few tweets that had character limits. The Student Expo was moved to social media, on Twitter and Instagram, prompting more than 300 students to share their research, scholarship and creative work.
“This really put my understanding of my content to the test,” Kukor noted. “Knowing what the bare essentials of the bare minimum facts are, and how to communicate that essential information in such a way that everyone, not just peers and judges, could understand, really required an absolute understanding of the material and expert communication skills. Overall, the virtual Student Expo seemed to be a great success.”
Like most seniors around the country, he’d be lying if he said the coronavirus wasn’t affecting his graduation emotions. He’s upset he won’t be able to spend his last semester at OHIO, savoring moments with his friends, and he’s upset that his college career, a hugely formative time in his adult life, will not end with a bang, but a whimper.
But the memories he does have — those will stay with him for a lifetime.
“This is the beginning of a huge transition period for me. My lifestyle, my social circles, where I live and what I do, all this is going to change,” Kukor said. “I am excited for what is to come, but at the same time sad for what I’m leaving behind. I love OHIO and Athens, and nowhere else will ever quite be the same.”
Major: Biological Sciences, Pre-Physical Therapy
Q: What is your major and what you will be doing after graduation?
A: I am majoring in biological sciences with a track in pre-physical therapy. After graduation, I am pursuing my doctorate in physical therapy at The Ohio State University.
Q: Can you tell us why you chose your area of study?
A: Growing up I was always interested in math and science and everyone around me always said I should look into engineering because I did so well in those subjects. But, my family was full of healthcare workers and I was drawn toward healthcare. The summer before I turned eight, I fell out of tree and broke both of my arms and that was the first time I ever had an injury where I had to deal with a physical therapist and I really enjoyed my physical therapist. And then my junior year of high school I took anatomy and we went on a field trip to Ohio University and we got to meet with lots of different professors and healthcare professionals in the area. There I spoke with a physical therapist who just really seemed to adore her job and so I started to look into it further, and that solidified it for me, and I decided that I wanted to be a physical therapist.
Q: Why did you choose OHIO to study this?
A: I grew up about 45 minutes away from Athens, and both of my older sisters had attended OHIO. I was always surrounded by OHIO and when I came and visited I loved the campus and I was just comfortable here.
Q: How has Ohio University and its faculty members helped you reach your full potential?
A: Throughout my academic career here at OHIO, I have great advisors and developed some really amazing connections with faculty members. All the faculty that I have had the opportunity to interact with here at OHIO have been interested in what my plans are or how my life is going. If you are able to put in the work to do well in a class, or get a scholarship, or pursue a career path the faculty here always been more than gracious enough to go the extra step to help me achieve anything I pursued.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments at the University?
A: I was never someone who went to many sporting events or attended many meetings or events through the University in general. Some of my fondest memories here at OHIO were summer evenings when Athens was empty sitting out on my porch with my roommates, friends, neighbors, and whoever seemed to walk by.
Q: What organizations/clubs/groups are you or were you a part of at OHIO?
A: I worked as a PLTL leader and a Peer Advisor in the BARR for the Biological Sciences department. This past year I was able to get involved in research with Dr. Anne Loucks which was one of the best experiences I have had while at Ohio University. It opened my eyes to what research has to offer and just how incredibly brilliant the faculty here is.
Q: Can you tell me about your dream job?
A: My dream job currently would be working with amputees or individuals that have suffered spinal cord injuries, perhaps for the VA. Right now, I am interested in specializing in the neurological side of physical therapy, but I am sure that as I gain more experience through grad school my interests may change.
Q: Do you recommend OHIO to prospective students? Why?
A: I would definitely recommend OHIO to anyone. The faculty is amazing and extremely passionate about what they are teaching and the students they are teaching it to. They are so eager to teach and help their students to succeed. The campus and surrounding areas are beautiful and offer so much for the student population to do. By the time you leave Athens it will be considered a second home.
Major: Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Arts
Keith Phetlhe will graduate with his Ph.D. from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts in Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts. Phetlhe came to Ohio from Botswana, where he started his teaching career, teaching English and Setswana in a high school.
Phetlhe studied African Literature and Film Studies in OHIO’s College of Fine Arts and defended his dissertation in March 2020
Q: Can you tell us why you chose your area of study?
A: I chose my major because I noticed a paucity of research in the area. African languages and their cultural productions such as literature and films remain neglected and therefore marginalized. I have always loved teaching, and my teachers from primary, secondary to tertiary education have played a significant role in influencing my decision as an educator. So I grew up having the edge of teaching particularly in the areas of languages. Perhaps my defining moment would be that I have always been a poet and fascinated by Setswana oral poetry; and that I am from a family of profound traditional poets, storytellers and healers. Throughout my education, we studied less of what reflected our culture but instead read material from western writers and I thought that something had to be done about it.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments at OHIO?
A: My favorite moments include meeting students from various countries. Every time I had an opportunity to meet an international student, I’d go and read about that country. This expanded my knowledge of geography. As a Southern African, who grew up in Botswana, I didn’t know much about other African countries, until I came to OHIO and then I met my fellow Africans from other countries that I didn’t really know much about. It has always been a pleasure to make such new friends. Another favorite moment during my time as a graduate student was when I was elected to serve as the President of the African Student Union, and when I was nominated to be the recipient of President Emeritus Charles J. Ping International Graduate Student Honorary Award. Also, I had positive feedback and support from the community after publishing "Botlhodi—The Abomination"; I was invited to give keynote at Arts West, and Little Professor Bookstore sold my books. I have also delivered a public lecture during the Africa at Ohio symposium and invited to read/perform poetry in local events.
Q: What are you doing after graduation?
A: After graduation I plan to continue working as a researcher and professor. Therefore, I will be publishing and contributing new knowledge along with other scholars. I intend to work on completion of projects that I had suspended due to dissertation writing commitments such as publishing of a Tigrinya novel in Setswana translation. I will continue doing work on poetry and social justice as that’s an important aspect of my professional life as an educator. I also want to venture into commercial farming. More importantly, I want to spend more time with my family, I and Annah have two lovely children—a daughter and son—Maya and Maru who endured a period of absent father. I also want to learn a new language to expand my portfolio as a translator. And I will read more books and write more.
In her time as a photojournalism student at Ohio University, Hannah Ruhoff has had experiences many dream of. She was able to photograph a Cleveland Browns game, and she photographed the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team when they played in Columbus last year (added bonus – the USWNT coach is an OHIO alumnus).
Out of these experiences — and many more — Ruhoff said the most unique and worthwhile experiences she’s had have been the trips she’s taken through the University.
“My freshman year I went to New York City with the Ohio University Multimedia Society, and my junior year I went to SXSW with the trip Josh Antonuccio runs and made so many great connections from all around the world,” she said. “My senior year, I spent spring semester in London with Andre Gribou’s Fine Arts trip and got to see a lot of unique performances and experience London in a way that I never would’ve gotten to if it weren’t for OHIO.”
Ruhoff will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in photojournalism with a minor in political science and a certificate in social media from OHIO’s School of Visual Communication within the Scripps College of Communication.
She was always interested in photography as a child, messing around with her mom’s camera and creating the weirdest images she possibly could. It took her a long time to decide what she wanted to study in college, and she considered studying computer science.
“I finally realized that I should just focus on what I’m passionate about rather than study something I was unsure about,” Ruhoff said. “Ohio University has one of the best photojournalism programs in the country, which is why I visited in the first place. The campus reminded me of my hometown of Shaker Heights with its tree lined greens, and the welcoming attitude of everyone at OHIO helped me feel at home.”
Though her photojournalism classes challenged her and pushed her boundaries, Ruhoff said the faculty in the VisCom program helped her along the way, as did Ben Siegel, her supervisor at her photography position in University Communications and Marketing.
Ruhoff also photographed for OHIO’s student newspaper, The Post; and she was also involved with Ohio University chapter of the National Press Photographers Association, Women’s Club Lacrosse, Ohio University Multimedia Society, and Thread Magazine.
“Ohio University can be right fit for anyone depending on what they want to study and what they want to put into it,” Ruhoff said. “There’s so many different ways to get involved here, you just have to find what’s best for you.”
After graduation, Ruhoff plans on taking life as it comes at her. She wants to see what opportunities are thrown her way, and she won’t be worried if life takes her in a different direction. Studying abroad during a global pandemic can have that effect on someone.
“Because I spent my last semester studying abroad in London (until coronavirus happened anyway), I had already said a lot of my goodbyes and gone through some of those senior rituals, so I’m not as emotional as I might’ve been if I had stayed on campus,” Ruhoff explained. “I’m still going to miss Athens a lot. The coronavirus also kind of disrupts the graduation feeling as we can’t have a lot of the things we would have normally at the end of the year. I’m really going to miss the sense of community Athens has. I love that I can go anywhere in town and see either students, faculty or community members I know.”
Q: What are your majors/minors/certificates?
A: Major in Finance with a Minor in Business Analytics
Q: Why did you choose OHIO to study finance?
A: My sister is actually an OHIO alum and went there for four years before I did so I was very familiar with the campus throughout high school. It just made perfect sense for me to come to OHIO because it already felt like my school.
Q: Did an OHIO faculty member/CLDC staff member help you in your job search?
A: Tim and Tammy Reynolds were so instrumental in my development and me getting my internship and full-time offer. The connections and foundation they have built with the Select Leaders Development Program is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to say I have a full-time job.
Q: Can you tell us about the job you have lined up?
A: I’m entering Dell Technologies Financial Development Program in Austin, Texas. I’m really excited because this a rational program so I’ll be exposed to various areas of finance in a short period of time.
Q: What organizations/clubs/groups were you a part of at OHIO?
A: I was very active on campus. I was a member of The Select Leaders Development Program, Association of Women in Finance, the Bobcat Seed Fund, OMSAR LINKS peer mentor program, and Ambassador for the College of Business.
Q: Do you recommend OHIO to prospective students?
A: As an ambassador, it’s my job to talk about my experience to prospective students and help them decide if OHIO is the school for them and I always say that college is what you want it to be. You can make OHIO home and make great connections.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments at the University?
A: My friends and I would always have game nights and we would go to Casa Nueva on trivia nights. I also really enjoyed getting a sandwich from Bagel Street Deli in the mornings before class.
Q: What is something new you learned about yourself in college?
A: I learned so much from college but the most important one was to accept yourself no matter what anyone says.
Q: Did you have to overcome any struggles while in college over these past few years?
A: When I was coming into college, I was very timid and held back a lot. It took me time to get over this and now I’m definitely someone who could be described as outgoing and personable.
Q: How would you describe Athens in 3 words?
A: Green, Energizing, and Open
Major: Social Work
If she’s being honest, Tamara Tyree won’t miss college. While the experience was great, she has no reservations about her next stage in life. It’s one Ohio University has prepared her for.
No more exams or lectures are waiting for her on the other side (at least for a few more years), and she can finally implement everything she’s learned about social work over the past three years.
“I have been blown away by my social work professors’ dedication to the field and to their students,” Tyree said. “I never had a social work class where the information felt outdated or irrelevant to the current worldly situation. My social work professors made an effort to stay up-to-date and to bring that information to us. In addition, they always took a special interest in each student’s interest and career goals. This allowed for them to give us personalized advice and guidance. My professors have shaped me both academically and personally.”
Tyree, a standout student on OHIO’s Eastern Campus, will graduate with honors with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in psychology. Tyree credits the way she was raised in her decision to pursue social work.
At a young age, Tyree’s family instilled in her that volunteerism is about connecting with other people, showing them love and treating everyone as your equal. She learned it is not about being praised, telling others what you have done, or feeling better about yourself.
She remembers being so energized after volunteering somewhere, even as a young child.
“As I grew older, I found myself drawn to people in vulnerable situations and emotional states. I cherish people’s story and feel very humbled when people share themselves with me,” the Pittsburgh native explained. “During high school, I found out about social work and have never looked back. I loved the diversity of job choices social work offers and I appreciate how social work teaches us to look at people; that they have dignity, that all people are deserving of help and that we all crave and can benefit from human connection.”
Tyree’s idea of a dream job changes every so often, most recently because of her pregnancy. She decided she would like to become a social worker in a labor and delivery unit.
“Becoming a mom is definitely my biggest and most exciting new endeavor for the first year after graduation,” Tyree said. “During the fall of 2022, I plan to start a master’s social work program and, from now until then, I will be working at Wesley Family Services gaining experience and putting the past three years to good use. I am so excited to not be a student and to be a full-time employee in the social services field. This next chapter is something I dreamed about for years and it feels surreal that it is becoming a reality.”
While her dream job might develop or change even more over the next few years, her overarching career objective will remain constant. She wants to make a difference. If that wasn’t her overall goal, Tyree believes she wouldn’t even be a social worker.
She’s well on her way towards making a difference, as she was selected as the National Association of Social Workers, Ohio Chapter, Bachelors of Social Work Student of the Year.
“I do not care if I ever make it in a history book or if I am ever mentioned in an article or newspaper,” Tyree said. “I just want just one person to look back and think ‘Tamara cared for me at my lowest. She did not judge me or look down on me. She met me where I was at, saw me be vulnerable and treated me with respect and dignity.’ I just want all my future clients to know that I care deeply about them and want to see them succeed no matter their past.”
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders
Emily Weidig will always remember being honored during the College of Health Sciences and Professions’ (CHSP) Awards Ceremony in 2019 when she was chosen for the Dean’s Recognition Award for Outstanding Student Organization Leader. The award allowed her to recognize and show gratitude to the people at Ohio University who helped her get to that day.
Weidig is concluding her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders within the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences. When she stood on that platform last year during the awards ceremony, she was “blown away by the talent that the students, faculty and staff have in the college.”
“During this time, I realized that we were all one family and truly cheer each other on,” Weidig said. “I have never been so proud to be a CHSP Bobcat.”
Weidig credits those talented CHSP peers, faculty and staff for shaping her into the student, leader and woman she is today.
“In high school, I was a passive learner. If someone told me that I would be the manager of over 200 tour guides and the president of two different organizations, I would have said ‘No way!’ but now, looking back at my time at Ohio University, I am beyond grateful for the memories and lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life,” Weidig said.
With the lessons learned and the experiences gained from CHSP, Weidig said she feels fully prepared to step outside of Athens and face the challenges ahead of her.
“I’m confident I can utilize the knowledge and education I gained both inside and outside of the classroom,” she said. “I could never repay those in CHSP who have helped me become the student I am today.”
Weidig said she wanted to thank her professors, including three of her favorite OHIO faculty and staff members.
“Sara White, Dr. Krause and Dr. Lee all impacted my undergraduate career in a positive way,” she said. “I could never thank them enough.” She added that her favorite courses included anatomy and physiology and language development.
Weidig’s academic career will take her to Indiana University Bloomington, where she will pursue a degree in speech-language pathology. She will also work as a graduate assistant for American Sign Language program at the university.