12:00 AM

Ohio State graduates plan to 'Do Something Great!' - 06/06/07

Columbus – Impressive community service, study abroad, significant academic achievement and research projects are among the accomplishments that Ohio State graduates will take with them when they earn degrees this weekend. Some 7,500 students will earn degrees during Ohio State's spring commencement on Sunday (6/10) in Ohio Stadium. The ceremony celebrates the academic achievements and hard work that each student has put forth to earn his or her degree. Each graduate will receive their own diploma at the ceremony, a practice rarely attempted by a university the size of Ohio State. Some graduates will continue their education and others will use their education and experience to enter the workforce.

Below are some graduates who illustrate Ohio State's motto, "Do Something Great."

• Helped build the world's fastest electric vehicle. After earning his degree in electrical and computer engineering, Centerville native Kevin Ponziani will return to Ohio State for graduate school and continue work on the Buckeye Bullet. For his entire four-year Ohio State career, Ponziani has been part of the Buckeye Bullet team which built the first electric vehicle ever to break the 300 mph barrier. The vehicle set new national and international land speed records in 2004. The team is now constructing the hydrogen fuel-powered Buckeye Bullet 2, which aims to go faster than the first Bullet in races this summer and fall. He is returning to Ohio State as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

• Going to Bangladesh to build a school for girls. Nafisa Akbar, earning degrees in both political science and international studies, wants to change the world…or at least a corner of it. Akbar, from Hilliard, spent last summer in Bangladesh, studying the education gap between boys and girls there. She will return to Bangladesh next year as a Fulbright Scholar, continue her research, and begin her goal of building a school for girls.

• Ninth among her siblings to graduate from Ohio State. Willard native Laura Stacklin, who is earning a B.S. in agriculture, is the latest in a high stack of Stacklins at Ohio State. She is the last of 14 children in her family to receive a college degree, and the ninth to graduate from Ohio State. Stacklin has been very active in leadership and extracurricular activities, traveling to Alabama, New Hampshire and California as part of the OSU Soil Judging Team, to New Orleans to aid in Hurricane Katrina cleanup, and to Brazil to study abroad. Recently linked into the 100th class of Sphinx Senior Honorary, she is interning this summer at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. She plans to begin work on a master's degree at Virginia Tech this fall. She and hopes to eventually return to Ohio to teach agricultural education.

• Top engineering grad led OSU rowing team. Justine Mahler, from Cincinnati, is graduating with a major in materials science and engineering and a minor in biomedical engineering. Mahler is captain of the OSU Varsity Rowing team, which placed in the top five in the country each of the last three years. She is also a four-time scholar-athlete award recipient and also the 2006-2007 Women in Engineering Outstanding Academic Award. She will return to Cincinnati after graduation, to work for Procter & Gamble in the Global Packaging and Device Department.

• Rocket scientist with a lot of experience under his belt. Micah Springer of Columbus has gotten more experience through internships than many graduates have after a few years in the workforce. Springer, who will graduate with a major in aeronautical and astronautical engineering with a minor in business, has had seven internships during his Ohio State career, including NASA, GE Aircraft Engines, Boeing and Edison Welding. Springer says even as a child, he loved the stars, space and rockets, and thought designing spacecraft for NASA would be a dream come true. Springer is founder of the OSU Rocket Team and last year built a 10-foot rocket that went to 10,000 feet. He is headed to Stanford for a Ph.D. in Materials Science, and hopes to study the potential that nanomaterials have to kill cancer cells.

• While raising awareness of plight of Hmong refugees, student earned two degrees. Laura Connell, from Springfield, will graduate with degrees in both biology and pharmaceutical science. She will enter Ohio State's PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) program in the fall. She says the pharmacist is the most accessible health care provider and she hopes to improve the quality of pharmacist-patient interactions for people from all backgrounds. Connell has worked to raise awareness of the plight of Hmong refugees in California, giving several invited presentations on the subject and organizing a bake sale to benefit Healthy House, a charitable organization assisting these refugees in California. Her most meaningful experience came during a 2006 Alternative Winter Break (service trip) to California. "There, we spent time with Hmong refugees, gained first-hand knowledge of the Hmong culture, and learned numerous approaches that one can take to serve marginalized communities. I became totally immersed in a culture different than my own. This experience opened my eyes to what it means to walk in someone else's shoes and gave me a better appreciation of differences between cultures, as well as the need to embrace those differences. The trip inspired me to spread awareness about the Hmong population and the crucial need for cultural mediators not only in the pharmacy, but in all healthcare settings."

• Microbiology major, marching band member, headed to medical school. Georgia native Mary-Margaret Fill, with microbiology major and minor in security and intelligence, plans to return to Georgia for medical school. She believes her minor will be a good complement to her medical career and hopes to go into the infectious diseases field after medical school. A trumpet player, Fill was a four-year member of the OSU Marching Band, an experience only rivaled by doing undergraduate research in microbiology.

• Medical school is next stop for graduate who enjoys science. Intrigued by science because it explains why and how things happen, Tipp City native Travis Steinke is earning a B.A. in chemistry and is headed for OSU Medical School. Since his sophomore year, Steinke has not only served as a chemistry lab teaching assistant, he has carried out undergraduate research in the laboratory of Professor Art Epstein on conducting polymers, which has resulted in exciting new ideas.

• Fisher College of Business community rallies to support father and daughter.An outpouring of support from classmates and others at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business encouraged two students to continue their studies despite a family tragedy. Brian Bowers and his daughter Kate are graduating on time – after the unexpected death last year of Danne Bowers, Brian's wife and Kate's mother.
At the end of spring break 2006, Brian had just finished the first phase of Fisher's rigorous executive MBA program. Danne had just spent the week in London with daughter, Kate, an Ohio State junior. As Kate and Danne were returning to the United States, Danne fell ill on the flight stricken by an undiagnosed viral heart infection. She died en route home to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Devastated, Brian, a senior vice president for a transportation company in Wisconsin, was certain he would not be able to finish out the year in the executive education program. Kate, a logistics major, was also struggling with grief over the sudden loss of her mother. Yet, the two, together with the support of their friends, classmates, Fisher faculty and staff, an OSU counselor – but most importantly each other – forged ahead with their studies last year. On June 10, father and daughter will both graduate – Brian with an M.B.A and Kate with a B.S. degree.