Pamela Cunningham

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Cody-Hillberry.jpgThis past summer, Cody Hillberry learned the purest and simplest definition of grace from an unlikely source, a summer internship. Through his time spent interning at Progress Community Corrections Center in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, the sociology alumnus from Waynesburg University learned many invaluable lessons.

The internship allowed Hillberry to work alongside specialists and guards who work with addicts, sex-offenders and parole-violators. Through this, he was able to observe many issues first-hand such as class division, sub-cultures within the facility, the impact of negative stigmas on a person's identity, the effects of addiction and criminal thinking.

Hillberry was presented with unique opportunities like shadowing a security officer and leading a group-session on relapse prevention, which allowed him a glimpse into the hands-on criminology aspect of human behavior studies.

But it was his passion for helping others and spreading the Gospel that helped him to release the preconceived notions of judgment and hopelessness that are often associated with offenders and their crimes, and see the human beings residing beneath these stereotypes.

“I [used to have] an attitude that withheld any kind of hope for them,” he said.  “However, as I was sitting there one day, I realized that they are no [less] worthy of grace than myself.”

Although he admits that this was not easy for him to embrace, it allowed him to see the potential for grace in others.

“We cannot dismiss people from the responsibility of their actions by any means,” said Hillberry, “However, to dismiss them as being any less human than we are is unjust.  As one of the staff at PCCC told me, ‘we’re all a couple bad decisions away from being in the same situation."

In addition to his summer of lessons, Hillberry says he is thankful for his four years at Waynesburg and the challenges his undergraduate experience presented.

“I had to think outside the box, create my own solutions, and figure out my purpose for being at Waynesburg,” he said. “The people I can still call friends, the professors and faculty that took the time to talk to me, my failures and victories, all pushed me forward, and for that I'll always be thankful.”

The Waynesburg graduate is grateful to have had the opportunity that has pointed him to a career involving people, rehabilitation, counseling and redemptive aspect of the Gospel.   Due to his experience at Progress Community Corrections Center, he is actively seeking a position as a Juvenile Probation Officer in hopes of continuing to spread the message of Christ.

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For as long as he can remember, Colin Phillips has been fascinated by politics. From a young age, his parents instilled in him the belief that as a citizen of the United States of America, he has the power to make a difference through the use of politics.

A 2015 graduate of Waynesburg University, the history alumnus will begin coursework for his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, this fall. This program will allow Phillips to entirely bypass the master’s program, and immediately begin working toward his Ph.D., an opportunity afforded to him as a result of his undergraduate success and impressive GRE scores.

Phillips’s involvement with Waynesburg University’s Stover Scholars Program, a program dedicated to the study of U.S. government and policy, also helped to cement his aspirations and work toward his calling.

Through this program, Phillips received the opportunity to further his knowledge of the United States government and Constitution through various discussions and experiences.

“Through this program, I not only was able to be around successful people in government who were able to shed light on how they got to where they are at, but also was able to have in-depth looks at current matters in our society and apply both moral reasoning to them, as well as Christian ethics,” Phillips said. “Through this, and the gain of a firm understanding [of] the Constitution, the Stover Program allows for its scholars to certainly have an experience that puts them ahead of the others that they encounter outside Waynesburg University.”

In addition, Phillips believes that having strong mentors in Dr. Waddel, professor of political science, and Dr. Lawrence M. Stratton, assistant professor of ethics and constitutional law and director of the Stover Center for Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership, taught him, motivated him and encouraged him to understand leadership and cultivate change.

“Both men played an enormous role in growing my knowledge and interest in politics,” said Phillips. “My private casual discussions with them about life and other matters turned out to be very influential. They both proved to be very caring and interested in my future, making sure that I had what I needed to go on and be successful. I was truly blessed to have them while at Waynesburg.”

Phillips believes that his time spent as an undergraduate student and a variety of interactions at Waynesburg University helped to further develop his leadership skills.  It wasn’t long before he found himself becoming more of a leader both inside the classroom and out, citing these skills as incredibly useful in his various internship experiences.

Due to these past internships with United States Representative Pat Tiberi, Ohio Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Board of Reagents, Phillips has been able to map out a potential future for himself.   As a result, upon completion of graduate school, he intends to pursue a career in politics.

“With these experiences, I was able to get a first hand look at how different sectors of our government work,” Phillips said.  “In doing so, I was able to see what things I liked, what changes I would make and plan out a path for myself within politics."

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For Heidi Dains, the choice to attend Waynesburg University did not happen at the most advantageous time, but fortunately for Dains, the choice has proven to be the right one.  Dains transferred to Waynesburg University a year after beginning her undergraduate education, and despite the challenges associated with transitioning to a new school, she has never looked back.

“My Waynesburg experience has opened my eyes to what an education can and should be. I’m very thankful to have made the transition to Waynesburg and I think that it was a very smart move in terms of getting the most out of my higher education.”

This summer, Heidi Dains, a junior business management major at Waynesburg University, is spending her time as an intern in the Customer Relations department of Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

On a typical day at Mylan, Dains handles calls from distributors and wholesalers regarding shipments, as well as interacting with other related departments.  This internship has allowed her to gain everyday experience through observation of and participation in transactions, deals and the process of communication internally and via outside parties.  In addition, Dains has had the opportunity to shadow people in both her department and neighboring departments, so as to gain a better understanding of what their jobs entail.  

Dains believes that her Waynesburg education has helped to prepare her by teaching her the importance of hard work and dedication.

“You need to be able to voice your opinion and have the courage and knowledge to successfully make moves in the right direction and you’ll get to where you want to be,” said Dains.  “The classes that I’ve taken at Waynesburg have proven helpful during my internship because we are taught real-life skills and all completely relative material.”

In addition, Dains has found the supportive atmosphere of the Waynesburg community to be beneficial in helping her to grow as an individual.

“Waynesburg is different because you build strong relationships with your professors, and those who have more experience are always willing to help you no matter what,” she said.  “You’re not just another student, because someone is always looking out for you and your best interest.”

For Dains, Neely Lantz, instructor of business administration, has proven to be one of those people. In addition, Dains credits Lantz for helping her to set up her internship opportunity and for being someone she could count on for advice and resources.

Upon her graduation from Waynesburg University, Dains plans to attend graduate school, with the ultimate goal of starting her own business or making a career out of something she loves.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Derrion-May.jpgFrom age 12, the ocean fascinated Derrion May. While walking along the shore of the Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian, Florida, on vacation, the waves captured his interest and evoked a feeling of adoration for marine life that would later lead him to pursue a career in marine biology.

This summer, May, a junior marine biology major at Waynesburg University, spent 10 weeks at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. While there, May served as a Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) intern through the National Science Foundation (NSF), working alongside marine microbiologist Dr. Kim Ritchie. The opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research related to coral reef restoration and marine microbiology enabled him to attend workshops, present research findings and network with colleagues and other researchers with the ultimate goal of making marine systems more sustainable.

May credits his Waynesburg education, specifically the variety of courses and life skills he has gained, as having prepared him for receiving such a distinguished opportunity.

“Without passionate professors from multiple disciplines and Waynesburg’s goal [of] implementing faith, learning and service in every aspect of the campus, this opportunity would not [have been] possible,” said May.

May also credits a shared love and passion for ecology and the level of mentorship provided by his advisor, Dr. Wayne Rossiter, assistant professor of biology, for his undergraduate success.

“I have always looked up to him from the moment we met the fall of 2012, and I knew that he was serious about seeing his students succeed,” said May. “During my time at Waynesburg, he has always been able to [lead] me in the right direction, whether it is with classes or looking into potential fields of research.”

May believes that his time at Waynesburg University has given him many opportunities to excel in various areas such as leadership and faith as well as in his major.

“Waynesburg has taught me something each year on how I can strengthen my faith, ways which my boundaries can be expanded as a leader and how I can actively make a difference in my vocation.  Whenever I graduate from Waynesburg, I can confidently say that I was given the unique opportunity to excel in the field of my choice.”

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Julie Tischer, a 2013 biology alumna, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology Department at the University of Georgia.

Beginning her third year in the program, Tischer is studying the CRISPR-Cas system, an adaptive immune system in bacteria and archaea, and is fascinated by the ways tiny organisms influence the planet and public health. Specifically, Tischer is studying the function of the system and how it integrates small fragments of invading genetic elements, such as viruses, into its own genome. These fragments, according to Tischer, are then used to detect the invader if it ever returns again, recruiting proteins to chop up the foreign nucleic acid.

“Microbiology in general has so many broad impacts on the world, from industry to health care,” Tischer said. “CRISPR research, specifically, is revolutionizing science through its use as a gene editing tool. The CRISPR field is rapidly moving towards possibly one day being able to cure genetic diseases, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Studying the foundational mechanisms involved in the CRISPR-Cas immune system is allowing us to try things we never knew were possible.”

Tischer’s interest in the field dates back to her seventh grade life science teacher who inspired her to study biology in college. Years later, Tischer’s interest grew into a calling as a result of the support and encouragement of Dr. Chad Sethman, associate professor of biology at Waynesburg University.

“I was particularly inspired by Dr. Chad Sethman, from whom I took many courses, including microbiology. That was my favorite course by far, and sparked my enthusiasm to pursue the field for my graduate research,” she said.

From her microbiology course, Tischer developed an interest in becoming a part of discovering how organisms function, and how they can be useful to humans, she said. According to Tischer, “each and every one of [her] professors at Waynesburg University led [her] to where [she is] today,” but scientifically speaking, she said, her biology professors, and the personal relationships she shared with each of them, helped her to develop into a “competent research scientist.”

Tischer also credits her Waynesburg University education for granting her the opportunities necessary to be accepted into a selective graduate school program.

“Choosing Waynesburg University allowed me to have a variety of experiences I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at a large institution,” she said. “Waynesburg University provided me with all the foundational tools necessary to have a successful graduate career in research.”

Upon graduation, Tischer plans to pursue a career in teaching — a career that she says will allow her to give back to future students.

“I have had so many influential mentors and teachers in my scientific career, and I really want to make a similar impact on developing scientists. I have such a passion for helping people get excited about science and research, and love to see that moment when something finally clicks in a student,” she said.

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