Mercyhurst names top graduate students

Mercyhurst College will honor the five top students in each of its graduate programs during adult commencement exercises on Saturday, May 19. The following students have been selected as outstanding representatives of their respective programs:



The Outstanding Student from the graduate program in Administration of Justice is Mandy Rae Weaver, who graduated from Mercyhurst in 2001 with a degree in criminal justice and has worked ever since as a foster care and adoption services caseworker with the Ashtabula County Children’s Services Board.

She commuted to Erie most weekends over the past three years to work toward her master’s degree, while she and her husband Jerry raised three children – including one-year-old Victoria who arrived in the middle of her studies. Despite the pressures of work and family, she graduated at the top of her class in Administration of Justice with aGPA of 3.95.

She plans to remain with the Children’s Services Board but perhaps to put her new degree to use in an administrative position.



This year’s outstanding graduate in the Applied Intelligence Graduate Program is Mike Lyden. Mike came to Mercyhurst from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, where he pursued studies in psychology and chemistry. Currently, he holds a cumulative GPA of 4.0 in applied intelligence. He is intellectually curious, extraordinarily competent, and exhibits a prodigious capacity for work. 

As a student, Mike has many noteworthy accomplishments, among them leading a team of analysts in a research study of China that was used by Department of Defense representatives to support their own classified analyses. Mike was among a group of students asked to write a National Intelligence Estimate for the National Intelligence Council, during which he helped brief the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Global and Economic Issues, Elizabeth Moore.

Following graduation, Mike will assume a consultant position with the risk analysis and mitigation unit of McManis & Monsalve Associates in Washington, D.C.

Mike’s parents are Mercyhurst Vice President of Enrollment Mike Lyden and his wife Bonnie. 



The award for outstanding achievement in the Forensic and Biological Anthropology Graduate Program goes to Heather Garvin.

Heather arrived at Mercyhurst with tremendous potential after a stellar undergraduate career at the University of Florida. Whereas most students require three years to complete the master’s degree, Heather completed hers in two and will be submitting her thesis for publication this spring. She has been a reliable, productive, and personable graduate assistant, helping with labs and teaching the occasional class, as well as getting her hands dirty with many of the department’s forensic cases. She has received numerous awards, including the prestigious J. Lawrence Angel Award for the top student presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. It is clear that others recognize her potential as one of the top graduate students in the country, as she was recently accepted as one of only two graduate students at Johns Hopkins, one of the premiere physical anthropology programs in North America.



The winner of the Outstanding Student Award in the graduate program in Organizational Leadership is William V. Gonda, Jr. 

Bill is an associate partner at Engel O’Neill Advertising and Public Relations. Although his job is demanding and multi-faceted, he still manages to contribute to the community and has emerged as a promising scholar in the academic arena. He has been honored on previous occasions – he received the David Schwartz Memorial Journalism Scholarship while a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, won theIUP Distinguished Journalism Senior Award, and was also inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honor Society. His honors and his A average in the Organizational Leadership program are reflective of his dedication to lifelong learning. 

In addition to his academic pursuits, Bill has been a member of the CelebrateErie Steering Committee, a member of the International Association of Business Communicators, a judge in the Academic Sports League, a member of the Steering Committee of the United Way of Erie County’s "Day of Caring," and a board director for Community Resources for Independence. 



The faculty of the graduate program in Special Education name Susan Clarke-Bhagwandien (bog – Juan – dean) its outstanding student this year.

Even in high school, Sue knew she had a gift for working with special needs students. She interrupted her college education to marry and raise a family. But when she moved to Erie in 1998, she returned to school and earned a degree at Mercyhurst in elementary education and special education. Moving on to the graduate program, she worked for two years helping to implement multi-age classrooms at St. Gregory’s School in North East.

Since finishing her course work, she’s been working as a behavioral specialist consultant at the Achievement Center, with plans to seek a teaching position in special education.

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