School of LER Announces Spring 2021 Award Winners

To celebrate the end of the semester, the School of Labor and Employment Relations is honoring students from all our programs with end-of-semester awards that recognize academic achievement and performance.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – To celebrate the end of the semester, the School of Labor and Employment Relations is honoring students from all our programs with end-of-semester awards that recognize academic achievement and performance. We are also excited to announce a new teaching award created to recognize a full-time School of LER faculty member for excellence in teaching.

Undergraduate Awards

A Student Marshal is selected each year from the graduating seniors in each of the School’s majors – labor and human resources (LHR) and organizational leadership (OLEAD). This is the school’s highest academic honor and students are chosen based on outstanding academic achievement and their contributions to student life in the school, college, and University.

Hannah Oleynik, of State College, is the labor and employment relations marshal this year. She is double majoring in political science and LER with a minor in French and Francophone Studies. She’s a Schreyer Honors Scholar and a Paterno Fellow. Additionally, she is an RA, a member of the PLL Dance Co. on campus, and the president of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Penn State. Her plan after graduation is to law school to focus on labor or employment law.

Samuel Kraus is the organizational leadership student marshal for 2021. He grew up in California and Texas and has also lived in Chicago and New York, but now lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. Kraus is a client success manager for SharpLaunch, a commercial real estate marketing software company. He works closely with clients to ensure they have the best possible experience with the company’s software.

The Outstanding Senior Award recognizes a senior LHR major who has compiled an outstanding record in both academics and engagement in student activities. This year’s winner is Brandie Laughner of North East, Pennsylvania.

Laughner is pursuing a BS in LER and MPS in HRER through the IUG program, and a BS in psychology through Penn State World Campus. She is a student member of SHRM and a founding member of the first virtual chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (VLERA). Laughner is also a World Campus Ambassador, World Campus Student Mentor, and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors society. She hopes to work in the HR field and become an HR director after graduation.

The Frieda Rozen Award is named for a former School of LER professor and recognizes a graduating senior who, as an adult or member of the Armed Forces, has excelled academically. This year, there are two recipients: Amanda Malizia-Hicks and Bruce Tirrell, of Vineland, New Jersey.

Malizia-Hicks is senior LER student. She grew up on Long Island in New York. She returned to Penn State as an adult student to better support her family, three daughters, and a great husband. At Penn State, Malizia-Hicks is the secretary for the APLS (Adults Learners at Penn State) as well as a Healthworks Ambassador. As a Healthworks ambassador, she helps students live healthier lives. She is excited to be a part of the fall 2021 cohort of graduate students in HRER.

Tirrell is studying for a BS in LER and MPS in HRER through the school’s IUG program. He has been a research assistant with the department of industrial and organizational psychology since 2019 and recently presented the team’s results in two Penn State research conferences. Before becoming a full-time college student in 2017, he had a three-decade human resources career in the hospitality, healthcare, and financial services industries. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in human resource studies.

The Strand-Lumpkins Writing Award is given for the best undergraduate paper written for an LHR class. The award honors John Strand, an alumnus of the School, and Professor Charlie Lumpkins, who for many years has helped students become better writers through his writing-intensive labor history course. Brittney Dellaquila, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, is this year’s award winner.

Dellaquila’s paper was titled, “Feminism in the Labor Movement.” She is part of the HRER IUG program offered by the School of LER. This May, she will be completing her BS in LER with a minor in Business Law. After finishing her master’s degree, Dellaquila hopes to go to law school. During, her time at Penn State, Dellaquila had the honor of playing varsity softball at Penn State Altoona, while also being an active member of the Blue and White Society and the Penn State SHRM Chapter.  

The Robert R. Kohler Memorial Award goes to an LHR major from the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania who has exhibited exemplary academic achievement. This year’s winner is Kathryn Cydis.

Cydis is a senior and completed her BS in LER through Penn State World Campus. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Cydis said she grew up surrounded by Penn State Alumni and fans, so she’s proud to soon be one herself. She is also excited to begin pursuing a career in the LER field.

The Dilip and Bharati Shah Award was established by the generosity of alumnus Nik Shah in honor of his parents. This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of the junior major in LHR who has achieved the highest cumulative GPA. This year’s winner is Lea Crofcheck, of State College. 

Crofcheck is currently a junior majoring in LER and pursuing a minor through the Smeal College of Business in Legal Environment of Business. Crofcheck said she grew up attending Penn State sporting events and has always been a huge Penn State fan. On campus, she’s been a member of Penn State’s Women in Business Club and The National Honors Society of Leadership and Success. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, lifting, hiking, and traveling.

The Ronald Filippelli and Sandra Stelts Achievement Award goes to the LHR major or MS in Human Resources and. Employment Relations (HRER) graduate student who has exhibited both high academic achievement and good citizenship. This year’s winner is Mary Enger, of Royersford, Pennsylvania.

Enger is currently a senior studying LER with a minor in Dispute Management and Resolution. She served as the Chapter President of Penn State’s Society for Human Resource Management for the 2020-2021 school year. She also served as the Special Events Chair for Apollo, an organization that raises money for THON, and was a student site leader for Penn State’s Alternative Breaks program. After graduation, Enger will begin her career with Textron Systems as a part of their HR Development Program.

Graduate Awards 

The Joseph and Karin Costello Graduate Award is presented to an HRER graduate student in his or her first year who has demonstrated excellence in their area of study. This year, the award was presented to Ana Milena Gaviria Naranjo.

Gaviria Naranjo is a first-year M.S student from Medellin, Colombia. She completed a bachelor’s degree in administrative engineering at The National University of Colombia and her background is mainly in corporate administration and human resources. Gaviria Naranjo previously worked as a Business Partner and Talent Senior Analyst at Avon but is looking forward to transitioning into a career of social impact upon graduation.

The Chartwell Investment Partners Scholarship Award is given to full-time graduate students enrolled or planning to enroll in Human Resources and Employment Relations who have achieved superior academic records or who manifest promise of outstanding academic success. This year, the three recipients of this award are Peiwen Zhang, Casey DeCarlo, and Jessica Presto.

 Peiwen Zhang is a second-year graduate student from China. She studied accounting and earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China. With the combination of these fields, she aims to become a well-rounded candidate for future managerial roles. Zhang held an internship at Dalian RF Trading Company Limited as an HR specialist assistant. She also participated in Purdue HR Case Competition 2020.

Casey DeCarlo is graduating this semester with her MS after participating in the IUG program. During her time at Penn State, she was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority and the School’s SHRM chapter. Her interests are in Talent Acquisition and HR Business Partner Roles. After graduation, DeCarlo will be working with Textron in her hometown outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She will be entering into an HR Rotational Program.

Jessica Presto has participated in two internships which have provided her the opportunities to explore HRIS software and engage in client-facing recommendations on the implementation of a shared-services system. She also had the opportunity to participate in the Gully Development Program, receiving individualized developmental feedback based on an assessment and an action plan to grow in specific professional competencies. After graduation, she is looking forward to joining Ernst & Young as a People Advisory Services Consultant in Philadelphia.

World Campus Writing Contest

The School of LER’s World Campus Program’s Writing Contest is open to students in all three of the online programs. Students with a GPA in the top 25 percent of their academic program who have completed at least 12 graduate credits or 24 undergraduate credits at Penn State are invited to participate in the contest. Eligible students who choose to participate submit a research paper related to a case study relevant to their program. Winners are chosen by a committee of the school’s online faculty.

For the organizational leadership (OLEAD) program, Brittney London of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is this year’s winner. London moved to Punxsutawney from Philadelphia in 2014 when she met her husband and began her career at PNC. The couple were married in 2017 and have two children. London is a Detection & Investigation Analyst at PNC. She decided that to continue to grow in her career and make an impact, she needed to pursue further education and obtain a degree that would assist her in being successful.

From the labor and employment relations (LER) program, first place was awarded to Kim Deyo of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Deyo is in her second year at Penn State. She is the first in her family to attend college and started her Penn State journey at age fifty. Deyo said she feels very blessed to have the support of her parents, husband, son, and grandson as well as a supportive network of friends and co-workers as she continues her education journey. She currently works full-time in human resources.  

Second place was awarded to Nidhi Yagnik of Los Angeles. Yagnik is a junior majoring in Labor and Human Resources. She says her passion has always been driving an organization’s growth through the continual improvement of its employees. Before joining World Campus, she served as the President of the Society of Women in Business and the social media chair for the South Asian Student Union at her former university. Outside of the classroom, music has driven a large part of her life.

From the human resources and employment relations program, the first place writing award was presented to is Amanda Morrow of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Morrow is working towards her MPS in HRER and will graduate in spring 2022. She holds a BA in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and an Advanced Placement Diploma in Human Resource Management from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Morrow has worked for about four years in Human Resources, both in the private and public sectors. She’s passionate about continuous learning, mentorship, and giving back to her local community and the Penn State community.

Second place was awarded to Amy Thompson of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. Thompson's professional career has included several HR roles with the most recent being an HR Generalist in public education in Chester County. She enjoys bringing fresh perspectives, innovative HR solutions, and a sense of humor to her work and HR teams. Thompson is enrolled in the HRER master's program and has three classes left including the capstone course. Outside of the workplace and schoolwork, she enjoys spending time with her husband,  daughter, and pets.

Paul V. Whitehead Teaching Award 

The Paul V. Whitehead Teaching Award was created to recognize a full-time School of LER faculty member for excellence in teaching. It is presented annually to a faculty member whose efforts in the classroom have provided students with an exceptional learning experience. The awardee is chosen by the Schreyer Institute for Excellence in Teaching. 

The inaugural award winner is Paul Whitehead, a professor of practice in the school who is retiring this spring after more than ten years of service to the school. His dedication to teaching, advising, and mentoring students touched many lives and set a high standard for future faculty to emulate.

April 26, 2021