Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2020


Hurst ties still bind

Barbara Pacicco Wenig ’95 and Nalika Nanayakkara ’94

Inside this issue: Hurst teachers making a diference P. 6 Student investors reap gains for university P. 12 Joe Morris becomes go-to political commentator P. 14


A message from the President

Every year as I engage students across our campus, I’m inspired by the phenomenal potential that I see. I’m also reminded that our highest duty is to provide our students with the teaching, tools, and experiences to make a positive diference in the world. In this spring’s issue of Mercyhurst Magazine , you will witness the fruits of our labor on a grand scale: alumni building successful and meaningful lives and, in many cases, lives that are making a diference for others. Take our feature on teachers. With about 2,800 living education graduates now located in 43 states and 12 countries, the stories are endless. We checked in with a few of those educators who started at Mercyhurst and are now helping change the world. I’ve always believed it to be a diferentiator for Mercyhurst that so many of our alumni – be they young or old – have sustained the friendships they made here during their college years. For the four young men who founded the Laker Asset Management Club on campus nearly three years ago, the ties remain strong. Having come together to invest $100,000 of our endowment – successfully, I might add – they continue to follow each other’s paths beyond the gates and into the business world. Our students come from all corners of our state, nation and world, excited to broaden their horizons. Mercyhurst provides room for discovery of all kinds, including the most important discovery for any student: learning what kind of citizen, neighbor, friend, and person they want to be. Our cover story is a moving tribute to the deep and lasting friendship that began in the early 1990s between two international students at Mercyhurst and continued into the high-stakes world of New York fnance. These alumnae are Barbara Wenig, a native of Italy, and Nalika Nanayakkara, who came to the U.S. from Sri Lanka.

Their Manhattan ofces aren’t far apart, so they get together at least monthly for lunch or after-work drinks. Their families have grown close as well; they’ve even traveled together. Two years ago, the families visited Sri Lanka where Nalika introduced them to her homeland and native culture. Now they’re thinking about a similar trip to Italy, so Barbara can do the same. I want to take just a moment to thank our Mercyhurst community, including our talented and committed faculty, staf, donors, and friends, who inspire our students and enable us to produce such remarkable alumni as we meet in this issue of Mercyhurst Magazine . Please enjoy.

Happy Spring & Carpe Diem ,

Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D. President, Mercyhurst University

ON THE COVER: Barbara Pacicco Wenig ’95 and Nalika

Nanayakkara ’94 meet up on the streets of Manhattan. Good friends since their days at Mercyhurst, they both now hold top executive positions with major fnance frms in New York City. Read their story on page 2.

Mercyhurst Magazine is a publication of the Ofce of Marketing and Public Relations.

Magazine Editor Susan Hurley Corbran ’73 814-824-2090 Design Jeremy C. Hewitt ’07 814-824-3022 Contributing Writers Susan Hurley Corbran ’73 Joseph Cuneo Sean Cuneo Deborah W. Morton


Contributing Photographers Leena Clint ’16 Jeremy C. Hewitt ’07 Curtis Waidley ’19 Anna Wesley Director of Alumni Engagement Lindsay Cox Frank ’12 ’14M 814-824-2330

Check out recent renovations to the library, and see what earlier libraries looked like.

6 HURST TEACHERS ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE Read profles of Audrey Coletta ’98 ‘01M; Kimberly Szmyd Thomas ’02 ‘04M; Grace Doman ’16 ‘18M; Gary Magorien ’06; Joseph Magorien ’01; Youjia Hua ‘02M; Michael Troutman ’12; Ebony Britton ‘09M; Cole Lowe ’18; Kelly Dombrowski Karns ’06; and Shay Bellamy ‘19M. 22 RENOVATIONS TRANSFORM SPORTS FACILITIES Learn the latest developments from Laker athletics, including a growing slate of club sports options.

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Barbara and Nalika (center) with their families during their trip to Sri Lanka.

From Italy and Sri Lanka to Erie to New York: lifelong friendship born at Hurst By Sue Corbran

Barbara Wenig and Nalika Nanayakkara have built remarkable careers in the high- powered world of New York fnance. They occupy top posts in prestigious frms, but they’re more than just colleagues – they’re good friends who frst bonded as international students at Mercyhurst in the early 1990s. In those days before the internet, when Barbara Pacicco of Rome, Italy, and Nalika Nanayakkara of Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, decided they wanted to attend college abroad, it meant a tedious search through college catalogues to fnd a school that would welcome foreign students. By coincidence, both reached out to Mercyhurst, which quickly accepted them and ofered scholarship help. Barbara arrived at Mercyhurst a year after Nalika. She says the two connected quickly, and their friendship remains strong to this day. “We hit it of and became close friends,” Nalika agrees. “We’re very diferent people personality-wise and in how we approach situations, but we complement each other.”

Their Manhattan ofces aren’t far apart, so they get together at least monthly for lunch or after-work drinks. Their families have grown close as well and meet up regularly; they’ve even traveled together. Two years ago, the families visited Sri Lanka where Nalika introduced them to her homeland and native culture. Now they’re thinking about a similar trip to Italy, so Barbara can return the favor. A quarter-century ago, there was a vibrant community of Irish students at Mercyhurst, but few other international students. Nalika and Barbara laugh now about some of the adjustments they faced. Nalika, who arrived in January, reports, “There must have been three feet of snow, which I’d never seen before.” She’d purchased a winter coat when she arrived in New York, but didn’t really have the proper attire to survive an Erie winter. Both women had studied English in their own countries, so “academic English” wasn’t much of a problem. Barbara admits, though, “Idiomatic English wasn’t my thing. There are lots of funny stories about the common expressions I didn’t understand.”

While both women say Mercyhurst prepared them well for their business careers, they are equally grateful for the liberal arts classes that are part of the Mercyhurst experience. In Sri Lanka, Nalika says, students take high school entrance exams and then are assigned to focus in just one feld, in her case math and science. “If I had stayed there, I would have been pigeonholed in chemical engineering or something like that,” she says. Exploring the broad array of subjects she studied at Mercyhurst was “part of the excitement and the journey.” Things weren’t much diferent in Italy, Barbara says. “The liberal arts concept didn’t really exist in Italy. Once you were assigned to a faculty, that’s all you did.” Both also praise the sense of community they felt at Mercyhurst. “The sense of community and the friendships allowed me to be in America by myself. I doubt you’d be able to make those connections in a lot of places,” Barbara says. “I didn’t make friends like that at Ohio State,” she refects. “There was just something very special about our experience at Mercyhurst.”


Nalika Nanayakkara

t eam; now there are 450+ folks in the practice.”

Nalika majoerd in fnanecand minoerd in mtah. At graduation in 1994, she was co-valedictorian of her class (an honor sheesdhwarithefllow international studetnJakub Svoboda of thezCech Republic). After moving ot NewYork, she combed the classifedtsieocn of The New York Times in seacrh of her frst j.oSbhe landed an teryn-level position as a fnancial anasltywith a Japanese b,atnhkough sheaws told the fmr genear lly hierd onlyvIy Leaguers . “At the beignning of my career, I always had to explain whtaMercyhurst was. No one had hedaor f i.tBut they gave me a shot evn though they di’tdrnecognize the school .” Three years later, Nalika enrolled at Columbia Uneivrsity, earning her MBA in fnanecand managemtein 1999. She joined the managetmen consulting amr of Enrst &Young . When Enr st &Young (nwo known as EY) sold itsocnsulting businesosCtapgemini, she mveod to that French consultingocmpany and styaed for 10 years.

“ r Nalika enjoys being on the cutting edge in an industry that’s changing dramatically. The word disruption is overused, but old ules are breaking down and new rules getting established, and it’s all to the beneft of the consumer,” she says. “One of the most interesting things is being ahead of the change that’s happening in

t She’s also passionate about building the business by hiring and grooming he best talent, and giving young people a chance to launch their careers. As for her own career, she says, “Life is full of opportunity and adventure. ’m happy where I am, but I would expect many more changes in the uture.” I f t Nalika and her husband, Edward Hartzog, have a son, Alexander, who’s 12. Outside the ofce, she’s deeply committed to the Fortune Society, a nonproft that works to help formerly incarcerated individuals readjust to mainstream society. She also enjoys politics, history, tennis, and traveling he world. our industry and making sure particularly that people who don t have fnancial services, who are unadvised, get the access they need and have fnancial peace of mind.” ’

At that point, she knew she was ready of r a new adevnture

. That next

step actuallyot ok her backotE Y, to help build a new businesWseinalth Managemetn . “The best thing abouYt iEs that it’s very entrepreneuiral, even though’sita hugeocmpany with over 250,000 empyleoes globally


she explain.s

She now leads themAerica’ s Wealth andsAset ManagemetnAdvisoyr practice out of the NeYwork ofce. Under her leaders,htihpe business has grown by leaps and bounds . “When I statred, we were a very small

’95 BarbaraW enig Barbara had always been itnerested in languages andavterl. She began studying eocnomicstathe Unievrsity of Rome but soon decided she wanted to study inmAerica. “As a paernt now, I can’t even imagine how my parents felt about thta decision. But thenyekw betetr thanot tell me nototdo this . They undersotod it was an incerdible oppoturnity for me, but they ewre certainly apperhensiev .” When she headedo tMercyhurs,tshe thougthshe’d stay for a year or so and then atrnsfer credits backotItaly. Instead sheofund a new ho .me Warmly welcomed into the Mercyhurst ocmmunyit, she says , “I made lifelong firends just 24 hours ionr. Fa of reign student who oculdn’t go home otfen, the Mercyhurst ocmmunyit was just outstanding .” Barbara majoerd in fnanecand humanesroucres and was patr of the honors porgram. She syas she enjyoed being with studtesnwho were really interested in academics andanwted to be She graduated summa cum laude in 1995n,ienagra fullefllowship ot Ohio State for graduate stud.yShe eanred her MBA in fnaenacnd health care in 1997, then headeodNtewYork City, wheer she erconnected with Nalika. Her frst jobaws with an insaunrce startup aflitaed with NewoYrk University Medical Center, wheer she spetntwo years working on fnancial porgrams and analyt.icSshe then spetnfve years at HMS, a healthcaer technology and analytics solutiomns, wfrheer she arn the

fnancial planning and analysis function, and earned her CPA and CFA designations. In 2004 she was recruited into Lehman Brothers, then a prestigious investment bank. When Lehman collapsed and went through bankruptcy during the 2008 fnancial crisis, Neuberger Berman partners efected a management buyout and returned the frm (then a division of Lehman) to its roots as an independent, employee-owned investment manager.

Barbara worked with its leadership team as it reestablished its stand-alone company and endeavored to keep and then grow its client base. Today she’s a managing director and head of the frm’s client platform, overseeing client coverage operations and analytics for the frm, and is a member of the frm’s Operating Committee. During her early years in New York, Nalika introduced Barbara to David Wenig, who would become her husband. When they married, Nalika was a maid of honor – along with Danielle Castro Klein ’96, another close friend from their Hurst days. Barbara and David’s family now includes four kids (two biological sons and two daughters adopted from China): Carly, 17; Parker, 16; Aaron, 13; and Lauren, 8, as well as three pets. Outside of work and family life, Barbara enjoys reading, ftness, and traveling the world and experiencing other cultures.


From left: Lauren Abbott, Brian DeFrancesco ’06, Gov. Tom & Michele Ridge, President Michael T. Victor, and Elizabeth Becker

Library evolves to meet needs of today’s students The main foor of Mercyhurst’s library got a $1.5 million facelift just in time for fall semester, and the improvements are getting rave reviews from students. Library Director Darci Jones says use of the library has increased to the point that she’s already ordered additional tables for the space. inviting place for students to work, and to access resources like tutoring, writing help, and technology support. Among the most popular additions: several conference-style rooms for collaborative research and study (with a computerized system to reserve the space). Arnold D. Palmer 2003 Charitable Trust and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. The library has evolved since the opening of Mercyhurst College from a single room housing 8,500 books in the late 1920s, to a spacious complex designed to meet the learning styles of today’s students.

At the heart of the spacious entrance is a round, handcrafted carpet customized with the Mercyhurst insignia. The renovation also features nine built-in glass display cases showcasing historic documents, photographs, and artifacts from the Thomas J. and Michele Ridge Collection. Gov. Ridge was on hand in October for the dedication of the displays, made possible through gifts from the

In addition to a quality core collection of print volumes, the library now gives students access to more than 250,000 e-books, dozens of electronic databases covering all areas of the curriculum, video content, and more. Check out the photos at right to see Mercyhurst’s library at diferent stages in its history.

The project was accomplished entirely with donor dollars, including gifts from former Trustee Ellen Hammond Ryan ’64 and her husband, David; Mary Magnotto Wood ’65 and her husband, Michael; Thomas B. Hagen, for whom Mercyhurst’s History Department is named; and Brian DeFrancesco ’06 and his wife, Jessica. Jones said the renovations created a warm,


THROUGH THE YEARS The frst library was a single room on the second foor of Old Main – 1 now the home of the Center for Teaching Excellence.

’ the library moved to the Learning Resource Center), but in 1998 it was returned to library use and restored to look much like the 1950s original. It s still a popular space for quiet study. In 1953, the library moved to the upper level of the new Joseph J. Weber Memorial (the lower level housed the Little Theatre). The reading room was converted into a dance studio in the 1970s (when When O’Neil Tower was built in 1933, the library moved to its second foor, and eventually expanded to the third foor. The reading room, shown in a photo from Praeterita 1941, had a view of the south campus out its windows. Human Resources occupies this space today.




’ Mercyhurst s fourth library, the Learning Resource Center, opened in 1971 and was christened the Hammermill Library in 1985.


’ In 1998, the Walker Wing was built, connecting the library to Weber Hall (including the Catherine Walker Reading Room). A fourth foor was also added to the broad and boxy library building. Though it wasn t used for library purposes, the addition creates a look more in tune with the Collegiate Gothic look of Old Main.


Hurst education graduates can

By Sue Corbran

Mercyhurst has been preparing teachers since its earliest days. In the 1920s, the young college began certifying secondary teachers for a variety of academic subjects. The elementary education program was approved in 1951, and grew to include a

curriculum for special education teachers. In the early ‘80s, special education became Mercyhurst’s second graduate degree program. Master’s degrees in secondary education and teaching excellence are

With about 2,800 living education graduates now located in 43 states and 12 countries, the stories are endless. Take a look here at just a handful of teachers who started at Mercyhurst and are now helping

ofered now as well.

change the world.

Audrey Coletta Audrey C oletta ‘98 always aspierd to be a mother andea cthe.r However, she did’nt pursue her edarm of tatending ocllege utnil she was 34 years old, maried, a mother of fev(the youngest just 18 months old), andowrking full time as eaatche’rs aide at GECAC Head Start. Dr. Robin Quick, her colleaguetaHead tSart, often told her , “You should be theatcher in this claossorm .”Not suer whether itaws even physically possibleo tattend college with her busy schedule and young fami,lyAudrey registered for several classesottest the waters. After eanr ing 3 A’s, she enorlled as a full-time studt.en She eanred her bachel’sordegree in ealry childhood/elemteanry education in justofur years, with an almost pfecrt G PA. It wasn’t feasibleot quit her job because her husbansdawgrape farmer, a profession with maynchallenge. sMost days she worked from 8 a.m. utnil 2:30 p.m., then rushed oofctlasse,sand otfen arrived home atefr 10 p.m. Sheoculdn’t begin homework until she visietd with her chilednr who were still awake and assuedr the house was clean. She says sheeflt a sense of caocmplishmet,nbut also guilt over missed schoolenvts and family taicvities and not being availableot comfort her childern when theyewre sick childer n missed their mom, she anlsowks she was a goodorle model porving thtadedictaion and hadrwork can tunr dreams into reality . When the whole famielylecbrated her graduation, she knew they were extremely porud of he. rAudrey credits her husband, extended fami,lyand the phenomenal faycuinltthe education depatrment for suppotring her in her deermt ination ot earn that diploma.

She taught for fve years at Diehl Elementary School in Erie while working on her master’s in special education at Mercyhurst, then continued her education at Gannon University to receive

credentials as a reading specialist, principal, and superintendent. As soon as she received her principal’s certifcate, she was hired as principal of the Wattsburg Area Elementary Center. In 2005, she became principal of Klein Elementary in the Harbor Creek School District, where she remained for four years until she was asked to return to the Wattsburg Area School District. When she left Wattsburg in 2017, she briefy considered venturing into a diferent feld, but another opportunity presented itself and she joined the Erie Catholic Schools System. Now in her second year as principal at Saint Luke School, Audrey says, “It’s a perfect ft.” As a public-school educator, she was used to keeping her strong faith private. “Now I can actually talk about God. It’s been hard to get used to – being able to put ‘God’ back in ‘God bless you,’’ she smiles. She adds that she has enjoyed learning and continuing all the special traditions that are part of the strong community at Saint Luke School. “The welcoming community at Saint Luke School has added another dimension to my life and I have grown individually and spiritually.”

. Though the


Kimberly Szmyd Thomas 02 Kimbelry Szmy d Thomas ’02 has been a special eductiaon et acher inrgades K-4 in Pennsylavnia’s Butler Area School Disitcrt for 16 years now. She works with ikds needing leanring suppot,rand porvides itinear nt emotional supptoarnd autistic suppotr for studetns who can funticon in traditional clasosor ms, yet need xetra help with things like sociaills.k Ever since her studetndays, Kim’s concern for childern has xetended far beoynd her own classorom. As a graduate assistatn at Mercyhurs,tshe launched a Giving Tree to beneft chilednr who migthnot receive many Christmas gifts – a tardition that continuesot this dya in Mercyhurs’ts Education Department . “We were poor college studetns, but we could buy $10 or $15 gifts for thoseikds who had so little ,” she says. For the past fevyears, Kim has been operating the iKds ’Weekend Bacpkack Program to provide of od of r kids who might othewr ise go hunrgy when the’rye away from scho .olSheof unded the program in her disictrt and statred with a pilot in herwon school buildi,nsgerving around 80 childreTnh.e program has now Grace Doman A unique patnrership bewteen Mercyhurs’ts Department of Education and Erie’s Public Schools gvae Grace Doman ’14 invaluable xeperience – and aérsumé boosetr that helped her land her frst ofcial jo.b After eanr ing her dergee with majors in special edutciaon and elemetanry education, Garce stayed on at the Hurstot work on a masetr’s in special edutcioan, which sheocmpleetd in 2016. Under a contract with the cyitschool disitcrt, Mercyhurst studetns staf a clasosor m of r students with autism, which then aotpeedr at Edison Elemetnary. Grace spent her frsteyar as a rgaduate student assisting in the claososrm andyb her second year in the maesrt’s program was the leadetacherofr the clasosrom, overseeing all theatchers assisting with the porgram.

expanded to cover all six elementary buildings in the district and feeds 360 kids per week. She oversees it all, from scheduling volunteer helpers to speaking before community organizations to solicit donations to coordinating with stores and food banks. Her work helped earn her the United Way Red Apple Award, which is given to educators who exemplify leadership and outstanding dedication to students. She also earned the Butler AM Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow Recognition, honoring her dedication to helping others in need and the Butler community. Now that she supervises student teachers herself, Kim is especially grateful for the preparation she and her classmates received at Mercyhurst. “It’s amazing how many educational experiences I had,” she says. “From the frst term freshman year, you were placed in a classroom somewhere. Most colleges do not start placing students until their junior year.” She counted 19 diferent classroom experiences during her undergrad years, and six more while she was earning her Grace believes she had the best of both worlds – she was a certifed teacher in charge of her own classroom, but she also had easy access to the education faculty (especially the late Dr. Tom Kitchen) and university resources whenever she needed advice or help. When she was hired to teach in Stow, Ohio, south of Cleveland, her new boss confrmed it was that experience that earned her the interview, and then the job ofer. At Stow, she’s a special ed teacher in a self-contained classroom for students in kindergarten through second grade with autism, Down Syndrome, and a variety of other conditions. But she reports that her experiences in regular classrooms during her undergrad years have been very valuable. “I have a real understanding of what it’s like in a regular classroom, so I’m

master’s in special education and a certifcate in educational leadership (2004). “We were exposed to so many children from a wide range of abilities that I felt I was more prepared and confdent to work with the diversity of students found in classrooms today.” Kim also feels extremely thankful for the professors that she had while attending Mercyhurst. “They continually encouraged you, wanting you to succeed. They were always willing to listen and to help you reach your fullest potential.” Dr. Kathleen Bukowski continues to be one of Kim’s greatest role models and inspirations. Kim married her high school sweetheart, Edward Thomas, and they’re raising three daughters: Ella, 10; Mae, 8; and Nora, 5. And of course Kim is active in all their activities, including helping with three separate Girl Scout troops.

better able to determine the best time and place to send my kids into an inclusion classroom

where they’ll be successful,” Grace says. Grace’s concentration during her

master’s program was in Applied Behavior Analysis. Between getting a new job and preparing for her frst year there, she never took the certifcation exam that she had prepared for. “I worked hard for it, and it would be nice to have those letters (BCBA) after my name,” she noted, so she’s now preparing to take the exam this summer. She’s hard at work studying and getting back into test-taking form.


Gary Magorien 2019 was a bigeyar for Gary Magorien ’06: he compleetd his dotcorate, got married, and statred a barnd-new job in high school administartion. This is atcually the frsteyar sinec his preschool dyas that Gary hasn’t been takingclasses omewher. Afterearninghis Hurst dergee in social studies edtuiocan, he landed his frsetatching jobtahis alma mater, McDowell High School just outside Erie. Like mostetacher,she quiclky statred graduate work, completing his maesr’st degree in eductaional deevlopmetnand strategies a t Wilkes Unievrsity in 2011. He fnished a seocnd masetr’s (plus pirncipal certifcation) form Edinboor University in 2014. Then it was back t o Wilkes wherhe entered the dE.D. program in eductaional leadershi.p “As I fnished each o,nI ejust kept going ,” Gary says . “I wanted to keep leanring and I was in the rhythm of going to school. ” Since JoeMagorien Joe Magorien ’01 laid theoufndation of r two careers while heaws at Mercyhurs.t He majoerd in elemetnary eductaion and special eductiaon, and h’senow in his 19th year teaching special eduticoan in the Millcreek School Disitcrt just outsideiEe.r He was also a running back onach Joe Kimbal’sl Lakerofotballetam, which led frstot football ocaching jobs an, d eventually, to his own businesseat ching strength andocnditionin.g Joe spent four years as a leanring suppotr teacher taMcDowell Intermediate beof re moving ot McDowell High Schoo,lwheer his caseload nwoincludeswto dozen 11th and 12thrgaders with a widaerivety of disabilitie.sHe teaches andoc-teaches academic classes in English and social studies as ewll. For 15 years he ocached running backs for the McDowellTrojansof otballetam (including the scho’soml ost famous

he was teaching at the same time, he could actively practice everything he learned right away, which he found especially rewarding. Last June, Gary married Leah Labranche, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, in a ceremony at the Niagara Botanical Gardens. Leah is an anatomy instructor at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), who’s currently working on the dissertation for her Ph.D. During 13 years at McDowell, Gary taught a variety of social studies courses at the academic and honors levels, and chaired the social studies department. But in fall 2019 he made a big move, accepting a post as an assistant principal at Erie High School. Created in 2017 when Erie’s Public Schools merged three high schools into one, Erie enrolls more than 2,200 students. Erie High is roughly comparable in size to McDowell, but Gary is experiencing a much higher level of cultural and socioeconomic running back, Pitt and Steelers star James Conner). Then he coached for two years at Gannon University. Throughout his coaching years, his specialty was strength and conditioning, so launching Magorien’s Advanced Training and Performance three years ago was a perfect next step. When he leaves school each day, he heads to his Fairview studio where he ofers personal and group training in speed and agility for youths, as well as in strength and performance for high school and college athletes. Conner has also called on him to assist with his camps for student-athletes at the Steelers training complex. Joe’s days are packed, but he says it’s the same schedule he’s had since he was a student-athlete himself: get up, go to school, practice, watch flms, go home. He earned a master’s degree and principal certifcation through Gannon University. At the moment, though, he’s not looking to move into administration, instead

diversity than he’s seen before, as well as a high

proportion of students enrolled in career and technical programs. Just a few months into his new role he believes he’s found an excellent ft. Outside school, Gary owns several income properties and enjoys buying and renovating homes. A music lover and guitar collector (he owns 16), he estimates he’s played more than 100 shows over the last three-and-a-half years at bars and festivals throughout the tri-state area. But on Dec. 27 he played his last date with his country band Small Town Revolution. “I’m just too busy,” he says with a note of regret. “Something had to give.”

focusing on his family and his business. “The great thing about my job is that my kids are all part of it,” he says. “Every one of them comes to some kind of session at the studio, so I’

m always around them.

And I work with my kids’ sports teams, too.” Joe’s wife, Erin Koskoski Magorien, earned her bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst in 2002, as well as a master’s degree in 2005, and now teaches part-time in the Hurst Department of Fashion Merchandising. They have four kids: Gavin, 12; Preston, 9; Nora, 8; and Joey, 6.


Youjia Hua Improving sevrices for studetns with

From his frst course with Dr. Phil Belfore, he was fascinated by the promise of Applied Behavior Analysis for improving specifc behaviors – from social skills and communication to hygiene and grooming – for individuals with disabilities. Widely and successfully used in the United States, ABA was not commonly available in China. Youjia went on to earn an MBA at Gannon University and a doctorate in special education at Penn State University. He developed an ABA course sequence for Chinese speakers during his frst faculty appointment, at the University of Iowa. In 2017, he joined the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia as an associate professor. He continues to ofer his hugely successful ABA training program in conjunction with UVa’s STAR initiative (Supporting Transformative Autism Research). Catholic school. At the same time, he’d work toward a Dayton graduate degree in education, receive a living stipend, and reside in a supportive, faith-based community with other Lalanne teachers. Mike earned a master’s degree in Technology-Enhanced Learning, taking online courses during the school year and spending summers on the Dayton campus. Mike taught kindergarten for two years at a Catholic school in Indianapolis, Indiana, then stayed on for a third year after meeting his now-wife, Casey, also a Lalanne teacher. Then he moved to an Indianapolis-area public school and taught frst grade for two years. Mike and Casey then relocated to the Columbus, Ohio, area, where he now teaches frst grade at Schultz Elementary in Delaware, Ohio. He didn’t expect to enjoy teaching the early grades, but he’s come to embrace his role. “I’m there not just to teach the content areas, but also to make a diference in their everyday lives,” he says. He points

He accepts a new cohort of 20 to 30 students each summer, from a pool of more than 100 applicants. Up to a third of them are parents of students on

disabilities in his Chinese homeland has beocme a mission f or Youjia Hua, who eanred a masetr’s degree in special education at Mercyhurst in 2002. For the past fevyears, he’s been tarining teachers and peanrts in Chinaotuse Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA ). The frst to ofer such tarining in China,’shealready prepared moer than 100 Chinese stutdsen to sit of r ABA ecrtifcation exams. Youjia majoerd in EnglishtaShanghai University beof re decidingotcontinue his education in the Uneidt States. His decision to pursue special eduticoan was an unusual one, since he had’nt previously studied education and had almost ntoerianction with studetns with disabilities in the Chinese eductiaonal ssytem. He went onlineot scout poetntial graduate programs and discovered Mercyhurst. MichaeTl routman Michael Troutman ’12 is defenliyt patr of a minoirty group – a male atcher who specialiezs in et aching theoyungest learners. He frst aimedoteach high school math. When he swcithed ot elemetnary education, he pitcured himself owrking with 5th and 6thragders. Instead, he’s found his nicheatchingikndegr arten and frst grade. One of hiswto student-teaching assignments was in a ikndegr arten classroom. When he itnerviews for job,s he says , “Their eyes just ligthup when I mention thtaI have kindegr arten experience .” With soefw men working in the pimr ary grades, adminisatrtors aer excited to ofer a positive maleorle modelofr their oyungest students. After eanr ing his bachel’sodr egree, Mike joined the LalannreogPram at the University of Dayton. He ocmmitetd to teach of r two years in an und-erersoucred

the autism spectrum. Unable to access the services their families need, they learn the ABA process themselves, earning BCBA certifcation and going on to help other families. The students watch Youjia’s recorded lectures online, and then gather from all over China – via Zoom meetings – for weekly discussions.

out that many of his students come from single-parent homes and have had few successful men they can relate

to. He’s built relationships not just with his students, but also with their siblings and

families, who see him deeply involved in the community, coaching and attending school events. An athlete since his high school days, Mike coached softball and basketball while in Indianapolis, even winning a state title in softball in his fnal year there. Today he coaches high school softball. He’s had plenty of experience being in the minority. At Mercyhurst, he was one of only a handful of men in his education program. And at his K-5 school today, he’s one of just four men among 30 classroom teachers.


Ebony Britton There were signs ealry on thtaEbony Britt on ‘09M was meant to be aetache,r although she di’dt nsee themtafrst. She graduated from Penn State in 2005 with a dergee in boradcast jounralism and headedotNew York City hopingot break into the news busines,sbut quiclky decided thtawasn’t for he.rIt was while working for Erie’s Barber NationalnI stituet that she eralized she lvoed working with childer n with autism, andtheaducation was her callin.g As a studetnin Mercyhurs’ts graduate program in special edutcioan, she taugth at the R. Benjamin Wiley Chatrer Schoo.l After graduation, she taugththeer for several years beofre headingotChesetr, Pennsylavnia, ot teach and eanra second master’s degree in eductaion form Newman University. Back in Erie again, she worked as lead teacher for Mercyhurst’s after-school program at the BookTe. rWashington

Center. She was passionate about the need to improve literacy skills to help inner-city students succeed and prepare for jobs that could lift them out of poverty. Ebony secured grant funding to install i-Ready technology. “We saw great results,” Ebony says. “The kids were able to interact in person with tutors, but also had i-Ready to track their progress and generate lessons to help with problem areas like comprehension or phonics.” In 2016, Ebony relocated to the warmer climate of Naples, Florida, where she’s now a behavior specialist with the Collier County Public Schools. She works with students with high-functioning autism, as well as children of migrant workers, who rarely spend a full term in a single school. Eventually, she hopes to open an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) clinic to help meet a huge need in her area for the kind of services that Erie residents take for granted. “I want to help bridge the gap and Cole can trace his fascination with South America to a high school history class. Assigned to report on any fgure from world history, he wrote about Eva Peron – and was dismayed to discover he was the only student who focused on a fgure from Latin America. “Their stories and cultures are just as rich as the stories and cultures of Europe,” he says. “Too often we gloss over the richness on our own side of the world.” He was immersed in those stories at the National University in Catamarca, a rural province near Argentina’s border with Chile. During breaks, he visited Brazil, Uruquay, Chile, Patagonia, and nearly a dozen Argentine provinces. Virtually no one spoke English and, despite years of Spanish study, it was somewhat overwhelming to listen, comprehend and think in Spanish. He came back with a variety of souvenirs, including, he laughs, an Argentine accent. And, more importantly, a deeper awareness that the way we do things here is not the only right way.

help families get the best possible educational experiences for their children with special needs,” she says. “If one person doesn’t do it, who will? I need to at least try.”

Her personal project these days is a children’s book she’s written titled Adventures of Ebbie and Bogo , in which her character encounters children with a variety of disabilities. “I feel you don’t see enough children with autism or other disabilities in children’s literature right now,” she says, “and I hope to help change that.” Ebony returned to work recently after the birth of her second son, Elijah Robert. His big brother, Carmen, is 7.

Cole Lowe

Shortly before his graduation, Spanish education major Cole Lowe ’18 got a piece of great news – he’d been accepted for the prestigious and highly competitive Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant program and chosen to spend nine months teaching English in Argentina. There was just one problem. He was also pursuing high school teaching jobs and he’d now have to let potential employers know he’d be unavailable for parts of the next two school years. Luckily, Erie County’s Fairview School District decided it had more to gain than to lose by hiring a teacher who could share that kind of experience with its students. He taught at Fairview High School from fall 2018 until he departed for South America in March 2019, then substitutes flled in for him until he returned after the Thanksgiving break.

Cole is happily back in his classroom now,

teaching Spanish l-lll, working with kids in Fairview’s theatre program, and advising the Students for Change club as it works to promote diversity and inclusion. Taking a page from Mercyhurst’s

playbook, he’s added a community service component to his curriculum. Later this spring, his students will participate in a naturalization ceremony at Erie’s federal courthouse. He’s been accepted for graduate work at Vermont’s Middlebury College, and he won’t rule out the possibility that he’ll one day want to teach at the college level. For now, though, he says he feels most relevant working with teenagers.



routes in Erie and North East. Kelly describes them as “3-hour lessons with food” and points out that she’s still teaching. Three years ago, Kelly joined the Mercyhurst

Kelly Domborwski Karns’ 6-year-old daugther Lilly asked her recently: Did you ever want to be anything xecept a etacher? Her mom’s answer: an emphtaic NO. At Mercyhurs,tKelly dual-majeodr in elemetnary and special education, graduating in 2006W.hat most imperssed he,rshe says, was the variety of clinicalxeperiences and parcticums she had right from the statr . “I especially liked thwae got ot work in vastly diferent environments in ubran, sububran and ruarl distircts that lie within mineust of campus .” One of her studtetneaching plaecments – in a middle school special eductiaon classorom – ledota job oefr after gradua tion. “It was like I had a semers-tlong interview ,”she says. After statring in a leanr ing suppotrclassor om, she ltaer focused on middle school social studie. Ist was her deram job. Once Lilly arrived, though, Kellyawnted a et aching position tha would allwo for moer time tahome. She had aelrady eanred a masetr’s degree in curriculum and instrtuiocn form Gannon University, and she soonaws hier d as an adjunt cinstrutcor at Mercyhurs.tShe was stilletaching – abouetatching! Sh’senow a part-time facuyltmembe, rteaching aavriety of coursesot undegrraduate eductaion major. s Along the way, she cerated a business of hewr no. After she planned aotur of Eire’s top food destintaionsof r some visiting relatives, they poitned out“people would pya you for this .” Erie FoodTours now offers walking tours with food samplings on three Shernee‘ShayB’ ellamy 9M Shernee “Shay ” Bellamy is an Eire native and CentralTech graduate, who compleetd her maestr’s degree in seocndayr eductaion online from her home base ianinGesvill,eFlorida. She eanred a B FA in thetare with a minor in speech communictaions form Clairon Unievrsity in 2010. She thenenwt on to become a figthattendant and worked at Sarah Reed Childer n’s Center beof re embakring on awto-year assignment with AmeriCor ps VISTA (Volunteers in eSrvice to America). HeVr ISTA service took herot Bary University in Miami, Florida, wher she programmed lessons andeentvs centered on justeicissuesofr area school,sas well as working on sustainabyilitssues on the Bryar campu. s Shay earned the eSgal Award through heVr ISTA service, and the award – matched by Mercyhurst – helped fund thextnset p in her education. When sheerceived her maestr’s degree in 2019, she also eanred the Siestr Eustac e Taylor Award as the outstanding student in her porgram. Shay was teachingtaa nonporft calledrPojec t YouthBuild in Gainesville thorughout the time shaesworking on her maesrt’s. Projec t YouthBuild helpswlo-income studetns ages 16-24 who have dropped out of schooldtevelop leadersh,ilpife, and employability skills. It’s an intensive nine-month program duirng

Alumni Association board where she soon started looking for ways to connect her current students with the university’s alumni network. First up was an Alumni and Student Networking Night which annually brings together education students with Hurst alums now teaching in the area. The evening is full of casual conversation about classroom topics from lesson planning to behavior management and discipline, plus advice on job searching, interviewing and networking. More recently, Kelly worked with Alumni Relations to contact fellow alumni for advice to seniors just setting out on their student teaching experiences. Dozens of graduates responded with messages of encouragement and plenty of practical tips that were compiled into a book that was presented to new student-teachers in January. These participating alumni were then matched with a student teacher as part of a new mentorship program. The pairs have been connecting monthly to discuss teaching strategies, classroom experiences, and life after graduation. Kelly is married to Steven Karns, who’s a middle school assistant principal in North East, Pennsylvania. Lilly now has a sister, Clare, 3.

which young people study for their high school diplomas, build and rehabilitate low-income housing, and earn nationally recognized construction certifcations.

Faculty members says Shay’s personal experience working with at-risk youth

profoundly enriched online discussions with her classmates. And Shay says she took many of the lessons she learned at Mercyhurst back into her classroom.

She now has moved on to start a business called Concrete Dreamers with her sister. Concrete Dreamers facilitates socially conscious trainings and curriculum, centered on leadership, empowerment, professional development, and social justice. She also works as a case manager, developing relationships and workshops for residents of the Gainesville Housing Authority who are enrolled in The Strive 4 Success Program. While she plans to keep educating people around issues that are important to her, Shay also intends to enroll in a doctoral program in educational leadership at the University of Florida with an eye to one day becoming principal of an alternative school.


Laker Asset Management club making gains for university

Student-run investment fund focuses on social, academic, fnancial goals

It’s a given: every Mercyhurst University student will have a hands-on learning experience before graduating. Depending upon their majors, students have delivered intelligence briefngs to national security leaders, designed custom spaces for local social service agencies, prepared and delivered a weekly dining series, conducted public opinion polls, and more. Why, posited Mercyhurst Trustee Desmond McDonald, shouldn’t business students interested in careers in investment management learn to invest – not just book- learn the concepts, but manage actual dollars? Such marked the genesis of a student-directed investment fund known as Laker Asset Management (LAM), which began two years ago at the urging of McDonald and Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor, with support from Vice President for Finance & Administration David Myron. The Board of Trustees followed with an allocation of $100,000 from the university’s endowment committee, which McDonald chairs. McDonald believes that giving students the ability to make real-life decisions is an extraordinary utility, and an experience that you simply do not get from curriculum or from professors. But what happens when you blend tens of thousands of dollars, the stock market, and college students? In LAM’s case, profts. At least so far. Club president Adrian Larsen, a senior from Denmark majoring in international business, fnance and economics, said the group has done well.

Approximately 20 current members screen companies that match their investment fund’s criteria and carry out the due diligence to support their intended investment, all the while being guided by Mercyhurst business professor Mark Simpson, who is a certifed public accountant and a certifed fnancial planner. This past year, students identifed themes to guide their investment strategy, one being the nation’s aging population. Their research led them to invest in real estate developments for the elderly and in drug distributors. Their latest theme is “Green,” which has sparked research into companies working in the feld of solar energy and other sustainability initiatives. LAM members meet weekly. Membership spans those aspiring to careers within the industry to those simply eager to learn about fnancial markets. Simpson spends part of the time teaching; the rest is spent with students leading discussions about the market’s performance that particular week, the latest news from the Fed, external factors infuencing the market, and investment ideas. For Larsen, it is an opportunity to network and socialize with like-minded students as much as it is a learning experience and an opportunity to make money for the university. He said 20 regulars attend the weekly meetings, but another 30 or so attend on occasion. “I think we really have expanded our reach and that was our intention – to create an environment where ambitious students could network and challenge each other,” he said. Larsen came to Mercyhurst as a golf recruit to pursue a childhood dream of playing sports at a higher level, but elbow injuries have taken a toll. Despite the demands of three majors, he still craved a vehicle by which to channel his focus and energy.

Trustee Des McDonald, Adrian Larsen

And that’s what gives McDonald confdence. “The students have been great,” he said. “They set up their own internal processes, chose areas to invest in, and rules by which they invest. Their handling and their returns have given me the assurance that I’m not going to wake up some day and say, ‘Wow, we just took a terrible bath.’” On the contrary, the board voted this year to give LAM another $100,000 to invest. Though the fund has been succeeding, McDonald said even if it loses a little, there are lessons with each mistake, and investors have to constantly be learning, adapting and withstanding discouragement. And, to McDonald, learning is key. Not only are the students learning how to invest in fnancial markets, but they are also gaining intangible skill sets, such as good decision-making and management. Simpson agreed. For these students, asset management goes way beyond academic theory. From a resume standpoint, students are working with actual dollars and that denotes a certain level of acumen and responsibility. Plus, they maintain a robust website at where they share their research and portfolio. They also deliver a quarterly report to McDonald and members of the university’s endowment committee. With this year’s additional allocation, Simpson said LAM intends to take a new approach. “Our plan is to divide students into three or four groups and give them $15,000,” he said. “Each group will research and invest in three companies. The logic behind it is that they will be competing and learning and having fun, but as portfolio managers, they will also be diversifying and limiting risk.”

“We outperformed our benchmark, the S&P 500, by 2.04% in our frst year,” he said.

Larsen is one of four students who founded LAM and helped craft its charter and establish its guidelines. The others – Bernardo Ramirez, Grant Coultrup, and Jeremy Wu – have since gone on to successful business careers.

LAM ft the bill. “It’s the one thing I really have to push myself at,” he said.


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