For many seniors, saying goodbye to Mercyhurst University is bittersweet, but it also marks an exciting new chapter in their lives. Five of the university’s seniors, who will graduate during Commencement Weekend May 18-19, share their future plans and reflect on how Mercyhurst has helped them achieve their goals.
Andrea Lisowski, social work
Andrea Lisowski is heading home after graduation – not to Northfield, Ohio, where she was born and raised, but to Colombia to teach English for the next 27 months.
“I really consider the world my home,” said Lisowski, a social work major who leaves for South America in August as a member of the U.S. Peace Corps. “After graduation, I wanted to do something that was sustainable and allowed me to continue working with others.”
As an undergrad, Lisowski logged more than 750 hours of service with AmeriCorps, tutored students at the Quality of Life Learning Center in Erie, traveled to New Orleans on three service trips, participated in the Mercyhurst Social Work Club and held positions as president and treasurer of Circle K.
Her dedication to service not only landed her a position in the Peace Corps’ competitive “Teaching English for Livelihoods” program, but also made her a standout student to receive Mercyhurst’s highest service award, the Sister Carolyn Herrmann Award.
“Mercyhurst’s social work program is phenomenal, especially when it comes to providing experiences for students in the field,” said Lisowski. “My education paired with my experience outside of the classroom through service projects has definitely prepared me well for the future.”
Ryan McMahon, hospitality management
Oil City native Ryan McMahon, a hospitality management major studying culinary arts at Mercyhurst North East, will be heading 800 miles away to pursue his dream of working as a chef for a 5-star restaurant.
“I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was 10,” said McMahon, who this summer will train alongside the executive chef of Maine’s celebrated Bar Harbor Inn. He leaves four days after he receives his degree.
“I came to Mercyhurst because of the university’s reputation for having a great hospitality program,” he said. “I’ve had an amazing education here. I definitely feel prepared for this internship.”
During his internship, McMahon said he will get to experience different positions in the kitchen, as well as learn how to prepare regional cuisine that he is not used to preparing, such as lobster and other seafood specialties.
Kaleigh Hubert, biology & psychology
Moving away from her hometown for the first time, Erie native and Mercyhurst Preparatory School graduate Kaleigh Hubert, decided it was time to cut ties with her Laker roots to pursue a career as a physician assistant (PA). Hubert, a biology and psychology double major, was accepted into Daemon University’s (Amherst, N.Y.) competitive PA program from a pool of 950 applicants.
“I love Mercyhurst. If I didn’t have to graduate yet, I wouldn’t,” said Hubert,” whose family has close ties to the university, including her sister, Meaghan, who will be a sophomore next year; and her mother, Michele, who has worked in the IT Department for 28 years.
“While I wanted to go into the medical field, I didn’t want medicine to be my entire life,” she said. “As a PA, I could still have a family, but also have a career that allowed me to interact with patients.”
While an undergrad, Hubert was president of the Honors Council, a university ambassador, secretary of the biology honor society Tri Beta and a member of the Chemistry Club. Hubert also completed 200 hours of volunteer work at UPMC Hamot in Erie. She will be awarded the Mother Borgia Egan Award and the Bishop’s Award for Academic Excellence during graduation proceedings.
Joseph Pudlick, communication
As a communication major, Joe Pudlick of Erie knows he has to go where the jobs are. But first he is going to earn his master’s degree in strategic communication from one of the top public relations schools in the country – American University.
“Graduation is raising mixed emotions for me,” said Pudlick, who is also a graduate of Mercyhurst Prep. “I’m leaving The Hill for the first time in eight years, and it’s bittersweet. I gained a great set of skills from Mercyhurst but I’ve also reached many of my personal goals. I’m ready to reach again and discover a new learning environment.”
Pudlick’s dream is to work in marketing for an amusement park like Busch Gardens or Sea World. As an undergrad, Pudlick was involved in several areas of campus; he was a resident assistant, a member of the university’s Ambassadors, president and vice president of the Mercyhurst chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and a member of the communication department honor society.
“I definitely feel prepared for graduate school,” Pudlick said. “I have seen friends stumble, and even fail at other, larger schools. I have done more than thrive at Mercyhurst.”
Alexander Larsson Vahlman, finance and business economics
For Alex Larsson Vahlman, an international student from Sweden, being accepted into a one-year graduate program for finance at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, will bring him a bit closer to home.
“I feel as if I evolved academically throughout my years at Mercyhurst,” he said. “The professors here are very knowledgeable and I was always able to get advice from them.”
When Vahlman came to Mercyhurst, he was undecided. As soon as he began meeting with professors from the Walker School of Business, he knew business was the field for him.
As an undergrad, Vahlman joined the Business Club where he was president for two years. He also interned with the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership during his junior year.
“The Business Club helped me learn my weaknesses very quickly,” he said. “I don’t think I would have improved my presentations skills if I had not been a member of the club or if I had not held that leadership position.”
These five students join the more than 1,000 who will graduate from Mercyhurst University during three separate ceremonies – one for traditional-age undergraduates, one for adult and graduate students, and one for students of North East, West and Corry – on Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19.