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Fall commencement address, list of graduates, photo gallery online

New alumni
At the conclusion of commencement exercises, graduates thank family and friends for supporting their educational endeavors.
12/21/2013 —


Lisa Veitch talks about "The New Classroom"
Forty-four earn bachelor's and associate degrees
New Penn Staters ready to join the workforce

The fall commencement address, “The New Classroom,” delivered Dec. 21 by Lisa Veitch to the fall Class of 2013 at Penn State New Kensington, is now posted on the campus website.

Mixing humor with sage advice, Veitch, a former New Kensington student, prepared the new Penn Staters for life after college. A research staff member for the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia, Veitch earned her bachelor's degree at Penn State University Park and a doctorate in materials engineering from Purdue University. She stressed to the new alumni that their learning continues and that the world is their new classroom.

“Your degree is a license to learn,” said Veitch, a native of Plum Borough. “You’ve been taught how to find answers, solve problems, work through issues, communicate to others, etc. But you have a whole lot more to learn. Keep an open mind, don’t be afraid to try something that is totally out of your area of expertise or comfort zone.”

Veitch's words resonated with Lauren Essel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. A registered nurse, Essal works at UPMC East in Monroeville. She plans to use her degree “as a stepping stone to someday increase my education and become a nurse practitioner in women’s health.”

Forty-four graduates earned their baccalaureate and associate degrees. Kevin Snider, chancellor, and Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs, conferred the four- and two-year degrees. The new graduates were inducted into the Penn State Alumni Association (PSAA) by Tim Oberlin, president of the Alle-Kiski Society, the local chapter of the PSAA.

Although a new classroom awaits the new graduates, the old classroom holds many memories, and the New Kensington campus holds special place in the hearts of the new Penn Staters. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing, Tayla Bernard is eager to test the job market and put that degree to work but will “miss the friends, staff and faculty that I have grown close with over the past three and a half years.” The 21-year-old Pittsburgh resident graduated a semester early.

Heather Lach, who had the honor of singing the National Anthem and the “Alma Mater” at her own commencement ceremony, says that her favorite thing about a small campus like New Kensington is “you get to build a relationship with your professors; they actually know you by name.” Lach, who was raised in Glenshaw, earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and plans to continue her education in graduate school.

For photos of the graduates, available Jan. 6, visit http://psnk.smugmug.com/ 

(Chelsea Markle, a senior communications major and intern in the Alumni and Public Relations office, conducted the interviews and contributed to the story.)

List of Graduates


College of Health and Human Development, Bachelor of Science, Nursing: Maria Eshelman; Lauren N. Essel;
Nancy L. Graham; Alexandra A. Kough; Toni L. Maline; Amanda R. Moore
University College, Bachelor of Science, Business: Kiersten V. Alvarez; Tayla R. Barnard; Heather L. Gulotta;
Matthew E. Hampshire; Sarah E. Kirkwood; Breanna L. McGregor; Scott W. Mergen; Perry M. Nickleach;
David R. Purvis; Peter J. Raimondi; Daniel J. Troiano
Bachelor of Arts, Communications: Jacob T. Baird; Sara M. Colaianne; Andrea J. Conlon; Rachel L. Dunn;
Chelsea L. Markle; Kristen M. McPherson; Joshua J. Pilat **; Abraham J. Strapac; Brianna R. Williams
Bachelor of Science , Information Sciences and Technology: Randall E. Croker; Kenneth W. Fisher;
Brandon T. Friel; John D. Gilga; Nicholas L. Graham; Jake E. Howard ***; Dustin E. Knowles; Nicole A. McMahon;
Cody J. Setree; Brooke A. Wintersteen; Steven S. Yusko
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology: Heather L. Lach


College of Engineering, Biomedical Engineering Technology: Ryan W. Bilby
University College, Business Administration: Byron M. Brown; Dominic A. Strapac
Information Sciences and Technology: Trenton J. Podvorec; Justin T. Schneider
Radiological Science: Samantha R. Miller

*Highest Distinction;   ** High Distinction;  ***Distinction

fall 2013 grads
After the conferring of degrees, new graduates are inducted into the Penn State Alumni Association by the president of the Alle-Kiski Society, a campus alumni society based at Penn State New Kensington. Tim Oberlin, class of 2000,  did the honors for the class of 2013. Standing with the new Penn Staters are family and friends who are Penn State alumni.

Commencement Address Fall 2013

by Dr. Lisa Veitch
21 December 2013

Thank you. It’s nice to be home again, not just in the PGH area but here at the campus. I have many fond memories here as a student as well as an alum. I would like to thank Chancellor Snider and Dean Adolph for asking me to speak here today as well as the rest of the Penn State faculty and staff, advisory board and students. This is quite an honor to me. And to the Class of 2013, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FINALLY MADE IT!!! Been there, done that and I know you’ve worked hard. And welcome to your next classroom. Oh, you thought you were done with ‘school’? Oh no, the world is now your classroom. Today I’d like to share a couple of points/words of wisdom you will need in your next class. But first let me tell you a story, one where you’ll see just how the path you thought you were going down can change in a heartbeat, mainly for the better, and will more than likely happen to you in your new classroom.

So let me begin by “once upon a time, a long, LONG, LONG time ago,” there was a high school student. She made very good grades, even took two calculus courses in her senior year but was very shy. So shy, she looked at her feet most of the time. One of her teachers would tease her, saying she was drilling holes in the tops of her shoes and threatened to get her blinders that horses wear in order for her to look forward into the face of people she was talking to. She had no confidence in her academic capabilities and certainly didn’t think she was college material. Until one day, one of her calculus teachers backed her into the lockers outside her classroom and said, “Try a year of college”. This high school student knew she was not in a situation to argue with her teacher so she applied at the very last minute to only Penn State and checked the box for New Kensington campus. It was close to home and if she failed the first quarter, it wasn’t as large an investment had she gone to the main campus. She proceeded to worry the rest of the winter on how she was going to pay for her education, how would she get to campus (hitch hiking was a possibility), and so on.

Well, she earned several scholarships and realized that a number of students passed by her home (she knew where to look for the Penn State parking sticker after the first few days) so she did hitch hike to school. And that was just the beginning of her college career. Within a few weeks, she was thriving as a student, tutoring others in calculus, making good grades and enjoying where she was. But there was a person at the campus, the Dean of Students, who also saw potential in her as a leader. He got her involved in the Student Government Association, he put her in charge of committees, projects, and events; he even made her go to student leadership camp- all of which she did, fearful at first but slowly overcame that shyness to a point. She went to the main campus to complete her last 2 years of her bachelor’s degree. She sent a letter to the Dean in March of her senior year, asking to receive her diploma back at the New Ken campus. And she ended up giving the commencement speech that year. So while she was speaking to the class of 1983 (still a little shy), no one knew she was shaking in her shoes (you’d be surprised what this podium and gown can hide). Why? She would be leaving shortly for the Midwest for a job she knew nothing about, she had zero family and friends there and she still didn’t have any transportation, and was wondering if she could hitch hike to work.

A lot has happened in 30 years. We have the internet and social media, we’ve made great strides in the medical field, and we’ve had some major technological breakthroughs in transportation, communication devices called cell phones, computers, etc. We watched the Berlin wall come down, fought several wars, and were attacked by terrorists. We’ve watched the stock market crash several times, been in good and bad economic situations, and now have global trades with countries we would have never thought we would be involved with. Yes, a lot has changed and you, class of 2013, are going to be the next inventors, leaders, teachers and researchers to name a few of your roles. So, now let me talk about a few points you need to remember in your new classroom, you may have learned them a little here but it’s a big world out there and you’ve got a lot more to learn.

Which gets me to my first point, if you don’t remember anything else I say this morning, at least remember this: Your degree is a license to learn. Your degree is a license to learn. You’ve been taught how to find answers, solve problems, work through issues, communicate to others, etc. But you have a whole lot more to learn. Keep an open mind, don’t be afraid to try something that is totally out of your area of expertise or comfort zone. You’ll do fine. Don’t get tunnel vision. Try what may seem impossible; you would be surprised how many breakthroughs come with persistence. It won’t be easy but you have the capability to do good things, no matter how big or small they are. Be open to adventure/exploration. It will pay off, not only for you but for many others.

Another point to keep in mind which is coupled to my first point is to treat others as you want to be treated. Not easy, believe me. Many of you have already had experience working with others. But there are lots of people out there from different cultures, demographics, education and so on that you may not have encountered before. You may not agree with their tactics or opinions, you may not really like them. But respect them, treat them as you want to be treated and the payoff will be amazing. Oh, there are those that no matter what you do, it’s just not a good situation and sometimes you just have to walk away. But that should be the exception. Working with others is hard work but worth it to get to a goal. When I started out at the plant in Indiana, there were 20,000 people there, most of which were union workers, about 800 salaried engineers and out of those 800 engineers, there were 4 women, including me. After I worked there a couple of months, I was put on 3rd shift production (midnight shift) and I was the only engineer in one of the processing areas. I was on my own with people who had 30+ years of experience, union vs. salary situation, and I was fresh out of college. It took a while to establish a relationship with them but in the end, they realized that I treated them well, worked side by side with them, earned their trust and, in the end, had better production numbers than the other 2 shifts because we worked together. There were still a few outliers but they were in the minority after a few months. And to this day, I still keep in touch with a number of them.

Communication is a vital tool. But an important element in communication is listening. There are people out there who want you to succeed, they may see something in you that you don’t, maybe even close friends and family don’t see. Listen to your mentors, don’t shut them out. This goes back to keeping an open mind. You don’t necessarily have to act on what they tell you but listen to them and think about what they have to say. I wouldn’t be standing here with the degrees and experiences I have if I had not listen to my calculus teacher or many of the other mentors/supporters I’ve had along my career. Listen. It’s good for you.

And finally, you’re not alone out there by any means. You brought a part of your cheerleading squad here today to celebrate your accomplishments. Your family and friends aren’t going to disappear. They’re going to be with you no matter what you decide to do, where you go, what course of action you take. They may not understand or agree but they are here for you. And your cheerleading squad will continue to grow throughout the years. Let me tell you about one of my cheerleaders. Back in the early ’80s, the US was going through a really mean recession. There were few jobs to be had, inflation was in the double digits, mines and steel mills in this area were closing like crazy, the petroleum industry tanked, savings and loans banks were in trouble, Congress was dysfunctional-does this sound familiar? History tends to repeat itself to say the least. My senior Ceramic Science and Engineering class was small, only 34 of us compared to ChemE class which was over 300 at the time. Everyone in my class applied to jobs all over the US and rejection letters were coming in by the dozens. I didn’t have the record but one person received 15 rejection letters in ONE day. It got to the point that we started posting our rejection letters outside the department head’s door and called it the Wailing Wall. It was depressing. Only a few of us did get jobs but we didn’t find that out until a few weeks before we graduated or later in the summer. The ChemEs faired much worse.

When I went up to Main Campus, my mom and I established a correspondence on a weekly basis even though I did talk to my parents on the weekends (remember, this is long before email or texting existed, postage was 20?). We continued this correspondence as I journeyed to the Midwest, went back to school, ended up at NASA, and up until she passed away some time ago. I kept all of those letters and on occasion, I’ve actually gone back and read a few that are pertinent to different times in my life. And so I’d like to read one of those letters of encouragement, from one of my cheerleaders that I actually read here 30 years ago. And by the way, you don’t have to worry which version of Windows you have on your computer to read it! So after she would ask me if I was getting enough sleep, am I eating, how’s your project, she wrote this: “You sound kind of down, too. I know you are worried and concerned about getting a job and finishing up your classes. I know I sound like a broken record spouting the same old stuff, but you’ve got to have faith that things will work out. The uncertainty of the next few months makes it hard, I know. You’ve worked so hard and it would make it a lot easier to finish up if you knew you had a job, where it was and could plan accordingly. But, Lisa, you’ve been in this kind of situation before when you questioned whether or not all of your effort was really worthwhile and one way or another things worked out for the best. It is the waiting and not knowing that makes it so hard. You know Dad and I are here to help in any way we can, but as I said before, there are times there is nothing to be done at least not right at the moment. Just hang on and believe in yourself and what you are doing. You’ve come through rough times and done the impossible before. I’ve faith in you.“

See you’re never alone, whether your cheerleading squad is here in the flesh or spirit.

And so Class of 2013, go forward, invent the next techy gadget we have to have, fix Microsoft windows, find cures for the diseases that still plague us, invent new energy and seek world peace. Keep in mind the points I covered today and you’ll do well, I have all the confidence in the world that you will. Believe in yourself, enjoy life, have fun and again, congratulations on a job well done. Thank you.

Former Penn State New Kensington student Dr. Lisa Veitch is a research staff member for the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia. Dr. Veitch attended the campus for two years before completing her bachelor’s degree in ceramic science and engineering at University Park in 1983. The Plum Borough native holds a doctorate in materials engineering from Purdue University She began her career in 1989 with NASA as a materials research scientist and moved on to Defense Analyses ten years later. As a weapons system analyst, Dr. Veitch provides independent technical assessments on weapons, technology, and policies that are supported by the Defense Department. The institute is a non-profit corporation that operates three federally funded research and development centers to provide objective analyses of national security issues. Dr. Veitch resides in Alexandria and spends her leisure time in the air and under water. She holds a private pilot’s license for single engine planes, and she is a certified scuba diver. When her feet are on the ground, she enjoys playing the piano and ballroom dancing.

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