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Ohio State graduates plan to 'Do Something Great!'

Outstanding academic achievements, impressive community service, study abroad, and research projects are among the accomplishments that Ohio State graduates will take with them when they earn degrees this weekend. The graduates are part of Ohio State's largest graduating class in history. Some 8,162 graduates will receive diplomas during spring commencement on Sunday (6/14) 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.
Former congressman and astronaut John Glenn will deliver the commencement address.

A second generation of public service – Rachel Szala. The Wooster native (Waynedale High School) will earn degrees – with honors – in both political science and sociology after just three years. Szala has been extremely busy – she was a member of Ohio State's Undergraduate Student Government and helped lead the John Glenn Civic Leadership Council. She worked as a Senate Page for one and half years, as the Public Policy Associate for a government affairs firm 20 hours a week, and also serving at a fine dining restaurant for 15-20 hours a week.
Szala participated in the Glenn School's Washington Academic Internship Program last quarter, and interned with Alliance for Justice in Washington. She was hired and after graduation she will return to Washington to work on legislative tracking, research and analysis and various government affairs and PR projects. She hopes to eventually get accepted into a Masters of Public Administration program, preferably at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Szala's most meaningful experiences include meeting John Glenn for the first time and living and taking classes in Washington D.C. – and hearing "O-H!" in our nation's capitol.
Szala's father, Michael, is currently serving a tour in Iraq for a year, and will unable to attend graduation. Her older brother, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, is an F-15 fighter pilot.

First in his family to graduate…and he has a job – Scot Helton. Commencement will be a special occasion for Scot Helton's family. The Dayton native (Northmont High School) is first in his immediate family to go to college, and he already has a job. Helton will earn a degree in finance, Magna Cum Laude and with honors and will begin work with Cardinal Health's Financial Development Program.
Helton says "finance, and money in general, are concepts which could have great or devastating effects (as evident), yet so few Americans really understand them." He has worked to teach children concepts of financial literacy through involvement in Junior Achievement and the Fisher Honors Cohort. Throughout his four-year college career, Helton has sung with the Ohio State's Men's Glee Club.
Like many college students, Helton worked while in school. During the school year he was tutor in Ohio State's Economics Learning Center. His summer jobs included security guard at a bacon factory, a bank teller, an analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and three summers as an instructor for the Northmont High School Marching Band.

When does he find time to sleep? – Eric Reynolds. Hilliard native Eric Reynolds, (Hilliard Davidson High School), will earn a degree in mechanical engineering with three minors: chemistry, philosophy and international development studies. In addition to an outstanding academic career, Reynolds was very active in service projects, and he played and helped lead Ohio State's Men's Club Lacrosse team for four years.
As a leader of the student organization Engineers for Community Service, Reynolds organized and led many service projects and events, ranging from building wheelchair ramps and giving computer lessons for Columbus residents, designing and building pedal-powered machines for people in Guatemala, and water quality projects for orphans with HIV/AIDS in rural Honduras.
His undergraduate honors thesis on the design of an implantable artificial kidney, a project he worked on over the past four years, took first place at the Undergraduate Research Forum.
He also is involved with the "Beanie" Drake Student Leadership Endowment Board and Service-Learning Initiative Board.
Reynolds worked part time during school for the past three years as an engineering research intern at Battelle, and worked two summers full time as an Ohio State undergraduate research assistant.
Reynolds hopes eventually to earn a Ph.D. in engineering and public policy and continue to work to make science and technology work more appropriately for all people.
He is deferring additional education for the summer to participate in a design team at the 2009 International Development Design Summit hosted by MIT and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

His family made cheese; he looks forward to seeing his first product on grocery store shelves – Kurt Ellis. Ellis, who grew up in Coshocton (Ridgewood High School), will earn a B.S. in Food Science with a minor in Agribusiness. Ellis' family has a cheese operation known as Pearl Valley Cheese. He held several internships with Nestle and Kraft and will work for Nestle as a food technologist following graduation, working on product development for Stouffer's and Lean Cuisine. He says, "It will be really exciting to see my first product on grocery store shelves." As a student, Ellis worked in a lab in the Department of Food Science and Technology, doing "everything from making mozzarella cheese to analyzing chicken flavor compounds." Ellis has been active with study abroad programs to Uganda, Costa Rica and Honduras.

Hockey goalie, physics whiz – Liana Bonanno. New York native Liana Bonanno will earn a BS in physics, and a place in history of Ohio State women's hockey. A member of Ohio State's Honors Collegium (to prepare high-achieving students for distinction beyond a bachelors degree), Bonanno conducted research in a biophysics lab over the last two summers, and hopes to apply to medical school after take a year off.
She was honored three times by the Physics Department for her achievements, with the Helen Cowan Book Award (freshman year), Smith Sophomore Award and Tom and Bunny Clark Scholarship (junior year).
Bonanno earned many honors as a student athlete, including the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV at-large award. A three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete and WCHA All-Academic Team member, Bonanno also was named a two-time Scholar All-American by the American Women's Hockey Coaches Association. As a senior, she was named assistant captain as a senior and set the single-season Buckeye record with 886 saves.

Student leader, begins career in two weeks – Sincer Jacobs. During his 4 years at Ohio State, Sincer Jacobs participated in nearly every service and leadership opportunity the university offers. He completed spring break community service trips to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Tennessee. He also was a member of the Hurricane Katrina Relief Team trip to New Orleans. He worked as a resident advisor, participated in the Mount Leadership Society and led MUNDO, one of the largest student organizations on campus that focuses on diversity and social justice issues. He was part of the 2008 Homecoming court and is the Commencement Eve alternate speaker.
Jacobs, who grew up in Cincinnati (William Mason High School) will earn a degree in respiratory therapy. Ohio State's respiratory therapy program allows students to take their boards prior to graduating; Jacobs has done that and begins work on June 22 as a registered respiratory therapist at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Stone Lab hooked her on entomology – Jennifer Yi. The Dayton native (Northmont High School) will graduate with a degree in entomology, with minors in zoology, Korean and sexual studies. Yi says, I've always been interested in animals and I started as a zoology major, but I took a class in entomology at Stone Laboratory (Ohio State's Lake Erie island campus) and I was instantly hooked. Insects are fascinating."
Yi took classes at Stone Lab in 2006 and '07, and last summer conducted research on the federally-threatened, state-endangered Lake Erie water snake. She volunteered each summer to catch those snakes during the annual census in the hope of getting the snake off the endangered/threatened list. (Water snakes bite, and the work of OSU researchers with them was chronicled in the Discovery Channel series: "Dirty Jobs.")
Last year, Yi traveled to Europe – by herself – for three weeks. After graduation, she plans to, "see the world for a little bit while I'm still young. I'd love to work overseas, probably in Europe, and learn a language or two within the next couple of years."

Master of the gym and the classroom – Jake Bateman. After four years as a member of the Ohio State men's gymnastics team, Bateman has excelled in the gym and the classroom. The Tennessee native will graduate with a degree in biology and has been accepted to the University of Memphis Dental School. He earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and plans to defer his acceptance until 2010 for a year as he trains for the senior national team.
A two-time All-American (on rings as a senior and all-around as a junior), Bateman also was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection. He finished third in the all-around at the Big Ten championships and led Ohio State in the all-around and on four-of-six events this year. Bateman placed in four event finals at the league championships and finished fourth on rings at 2009 at the NCAA championships. A four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, he also is a three-time College Gymnastics Association First Team All-America Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
His awards also include the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV at-large award. Last year, he was a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Second Team and a First Team Academic All-District honoree.

Social Worker, track and field star – Elon Simms. The concept of "pay forward" has motivated scholar athlete Elon Simms as long as he can remember. "There have been many people who have helped me along the way, and I just try to treat others with the same respect and empathy that I have been treated with."
Simms, who will graduate with a degree in social work, has been a member of the Men's Track and Field Team for the last four years, and as captain for the last two. Although track is a large component of his life, Simms is driven to community service.
A friend's death in a car accident inspired him to memorialize the friend, and also to study social work. In 2005, Simms helped coordinate a track meet in his hometown of Fremont (Fremont Ross High School) in memory of his longtime friend and teammate, David John Guardiola, who was killed in an automobile accident.
Simms, along with his teammates, mentor at Columbus' 5th Avenue Elementary School.
Next year Simms will enroll in the Title IV-E program for Child Welfare. Under this program, he will complete his field placement at Franklin County Children Services and will have a job there upon graduation.

Raising funds to aid in recovery from Chinese earthquake – Chen Yan. Yan, an international student from the SiChuan Province in China, will graduate with a degree in human resources. When the devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan Province in China last May, Yan knew she had to do something to help console the Chinese students on campus and the victims in her home country. As president of the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization, Chen developed a plan to raise funds on campus and send the donations to the Red Cross in China. The group opened a separate trust account with a local bank so that any money raised could be wired directly to the Red Cross in China to aid victims of the earthquake In one week, Yan and the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization had raised $13,969.10.
After graduation, Yan plans to return for a second degree in German, with minors in aviation, city and regional planning, and fashion design. She hopes to complete her second degree in two years, get an FAA license and eventually return to China to help her father expand his business.

Dancers and teachers – Erika Harris and Robyn Young. The pair created a remarkable senior project for completion of their BFA in Dance that grew to include raising funds, commissioning choreographers, recruiting dancers and taking the heresiarch and artistry out to local public schools.
Planning ahead in spring of their junior year, they applied for and received funding (from the College of the Arts Undergraduate Research Scholarships, and from the Department of Dance Quarterly Funding Initiative – project support funds from donors), to commission nationally recognized choreographers to create choreography for them and their fellow dancers.
Last fall, they presented their concert, "Inherited Movement, Traditions Redefined," described as an evening of dance exhibiting movement from the African-American experience. "Inherited Movement, Traditions Redefined" is a dance concert that reflects the transformation of African-American's traditions in movement.
Through the winter and spring, Harris and Young visited public schools in Columbus, sharing the choreography and teaching, offering young students an opportunity to take part in the dance traditions and create their own stories.
Young, who will earn a BFA in dance with a minor in education, plans to work for Teach for America following graduation. She is a native of Rochester, NY and was homeschooled prior to attending Ohio State.

Japanese, Microbiology and French – Kim McCabe. When she was about eight years old, McCabe decided she wanted to learn Japanese. Her grandmother is Japanese but no one else in the family spoke the language. A self-motivated learner, McCabe found people to help her learn Japanese and was already studying it before college.
McCabe will graduate with a double major in microbiology and Japanese with a minor in French. She says her most meaningful experience was an internship last summer in the lab of a Japanese pharmaceutical company, using her background in microbiology and communicating entirely in Japanese. In addition to working on her undergraduate research project, McCabe volunteers for a group that trains puppies for the blind.
Following graduation, McCabe will work in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. in microbiology.
McCabe is a native of Buffalo, NY.

For the benefit of animals – Brandon Palinski. Brandon Palinski will earn a degree in animal sciences, with minors in business and life sciences. The Waterville native (Anthony Wayne High School) plans to pursue a masters in veterinary public health next year. Palinski's most meaningful experience as an Ohio State student was a 6 week study abroad program to Australia. "The program was tailored for my major and I never imagined how much I could learn not only about a foreign culture but about myself as well."
He also enjoys Ohio State traditions such as football games in the "shoe" or jumping in the lake the Thursday before the Michigan game.
Last summer, he interned for a veterinary practice that was a holistic-western medicine hybrid. He says it offered a unique experience of seeing acupuncture for dogs and cats as well as non-traditional herbal remedies mixed in with traditional western medicine.

Soil scientist – Melissa Herman. The Wooster native (Triway High School) will earn a B.S. in Natural Resources with minors in International Studies and Development and Environmental Economics. Herman became interested in soil sciences at Ohio State and how agriculture relates to development. She participated in two study abroad trips – to Brazil and Uganda, and traveled to Kenya last summer for her undergraduate honor project on growing maize.
She says, "Personally, I've become most focused on soils and agriculture. The field is again very inter-disciplinary, and very important, as the world will always need food! Add to that some economics and policy, and then put that in the context of developing countries—that's me. The world will not be rid of (or at least downsize) poverty and hunger if soils aren't managed properly for better food production."
After graduation, Herman will begin working toward a Master of Science degree in soil fertility at Ohio State. She hopes to work internationally as a soil scientist addressing problems associated with food security.

Ohio State's top student worker – Lily Bierley. While many stories profile students who have distinguished themselves thru their studies, Lily Bierley, who is earning a degree in health sciences, (School of Allied Medicine), distinguished herself by being the best college student worker in the state.
Bierley is a student assistant working in the College of Medicine, was named Student Employee of the Year by Ohio State's Office of Federal Work-Study and Student Employment. She is the first student from Ohio State to win the statewide award.
After graduation, Bierley plans to pursue a career in advanced practice nursing after enjoying a year of travel and work.