Graduate program hosts first awards dinner

Intel winner

The Mercyhurst University Graduate College celebrated the achievements and hard work of seven graduates by presenting them each with the Sister Eustace Taylor Outstanding Leadership Award during last night’s inaugural graduate awards dinner held at the Center for Academic Engagement.

The Sister Eustace Taylor award recognizes graduate students who have excelled academically and have made major contributions to their respective fields of study. The awards also consider how these graduates have impacted Mercyhurst and communities beyond the university’s gates.

“I want to congratulate these truly outstanding graduate students who inspire all of us by their exemplary leadership that is in keeping with the finest traditions of Mercyhurst University,” said Gilbert Jacobs, Ph.D., dean of the graduate college. “These graduates bring great credit to themselves and to their respective graduate programs at Mercyhurst.”

Faculty members from each of the seven graduate departments deliberated to choose which students would receive the honor. Honorees were:

Administration of Justice — Joseph Spusta

Spusta is a county detective with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. Spusta also received his bachelor’s degree (criminal justice) from Mercyhurst in 2003. He has worked as a coordinator for the STOP Violence against Women program in Erie; he is a founding member of the Erie County Child Abuse Multi-Disciplinary Team, and a member of the Erie County Children’s Advocacy Center; and he is one of two certified forensic child interviewers in the county. 

Forensic and Biological Anthropology — Alicia Grosso

Grosso, who also received her undergraduate degree from Mercyhurst, is the first recipient of this award in anthropology. She holds the highest GPA among her peers, and she has excelled in several research projects. She has dedicated her time to many forensic investigations and was a graduate assistant for the undergraduate anthropology department. She is currently searching for a doctoral program in anatomy and anthropology.

Applied Intelligence — Lisandra Maisonet-Montanez

Maisonet-Montanez has completed two internships while earning her degree — one in cyberintelligence with Cyveillance and an ongoing internship with FBI units in Washington, D.C. and Erie. For her capstone project, she worked as part of a team on an intelligence project in Central Asia, as well as later briefing senior intelligence officials in Washington. For the past year, she was a graduate assistant who helped teach, research and mentor in the department. As a finalist in the Presidential Management Fellowship Program, she is one step closer to landing a two-year paid fellowship with a federal agency.

Exercise Science — Alexandra Carney-Knisely

Carney-Knisely is a 4.0 student who is completing a self-directed research project in exercise science about the impact of compression stockings in high intensity activities, such as running. Her study will be submitted to the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Congress as well as to the European Journal of Physiology. She completed an internship in the cardiac stress laboratory at St. Vincent Health Center and she served as a graduate assistant at Mercyhurst, working as a strength and conditioning trainer for basketball and rowing teams. After graduation, she will pursue her second passion for sculpture by earning a master’s in fine art through a full scholarship at Edinboro University.

Organizational Leadership — Colin Hurley

Hurley, who is the director of service learning at Mercyhurst, has earned a 4.0 in the program. He collaborated with the Nonprofit Partnership to research the leadership development needs of the Erie nonprofit community. As a result of the study, Hurley helped create a series of leadership seminars aimed at meeting the leadership development needs of Erie nonprofit organization leaders. He has worked with faculty and students on more than 80 regional and international service projects. Before coming to Mercyhurst, he was an AmeriCorps Vista Leader at Allegheny College.

Secondary Education — Meghan Britton

Britton, who earned her undergraduate degree in English at Mercyhurst, has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the graduate program. Her experience as an educator stems from her involvement with the Erie School District’s GEARS after-school program at Roosevelt Middle School, where she helped provide nine weeks of structured learning by integrating the Congressional Medal of Honor curriculum. She has volunteered at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Erie, at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum and the Quality of Life Learning Center. She also served as a trainer in the Lead and Seed program through the Coalition Pathways organization, where she orchestrated drug and alcohol prevention presentations to middle school and high school students.

Special Education — Charlene Lichtinger

Lichtinger earned her undergraduate degree in elementary and special education from Mercyhurst, and continued on to the graduate program where she has maintained a consistently high GPA. During her first year as a graduate student, she served as an adviser to the Mercyhurst Ambassador Club and volunteered at Jefferson School. More recently, she played a major role in launching the university’s groundbreaking Autism Support Initiative at Edison Elementary.

PHOTO: Jim Breckenridge, Ph.D., intelligence studies, at left; with applied intelligence award recipient Lisandra Maisonet-Montanez and her family.


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