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Emily Francis wins ATHENA Young Professional Award

Thursday, September 17, 2015

For the second consecutive year in the brief history of the ATHENA Young Professional Award, a Mercyhurst University student has won the coveted honor. This year’s recipient is Emily Francis of Goodrich, Michigan, one of four young women representing Erie’s universities to be nominated for the award.

Francis graduated in May with degrees in intelligence studies and public health and a minor in political science. She maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning Mercyhurst’s coveted Bishop’s Award for Academic Excellence.

“Emily's excellence in academics, her steadfast work ethic and her passion for service to the community are hallmarks of a Mercyhurst education, said Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor. “We are proud to have nominated such an outstanding young professional and know she will serve as a model for young women and a great representative of ATHENA and Mercyhurst.”

While at Mercyhurst, Francis worked collaboratively with intelligence studies professsor Kristan Wheaton, J.D., leading teams of students in developing Kickstarter campaigns for local entrepreneurs. In fact, it was the intelligence studies department that recommended Francis for the ATHENA award.

"Emily is an extraordinary analyst, writer, researcher and leader," Wheaton said. "Her work here at Mercyhurst across a wide variety of projects and disciplines shows that she has a powerful desire and ability to be a force for good in the world." 

Also, she was among an inaugural cohort of five intel majors chosen for a summer study program at one of the world’s leading universities – the United Kingdom’s University of Cambridge.

Francis also worked with Mercyhurst Provost David Dausey, Ph.D., former dean of the the School of Health Professions and Public Health, and a group of students who traveled to Vietnam to explore the long-term health impacts of war. In addition, she took a semester of study at Mercyhurst’s academic center in Dungarvan, Ireland.

"Emily is the embodiment of the Mercy mission," said Dausey. "She was a student who focused not only on academic scholarship but on setting a path whereby she could change the world."

Also to her credit, Francis speaks four languages and participated in many campus activities during her years on the Hill, including serving as captain of the cross country team and president of the Student Alumni Association. She extended her reach into the Erie community in programs benefitting the JFK Center, Multicultural Community Resource Center, Soldiers and Sailors Home and Second Harvest Food Bank, to name a few.

“The Sisters of Mercy were perfect examples of strong women in leadership who were dedicated to academics and service to the community,” said Mercyhurst Communication Department Chair Meghan Waskiewicz, who is Mercyhurst’s representative on the ATHENA board. “It's no wonder then that for two consecutive years Mercyhurst women would win this award, which captures the essence of our values and speaks to the tradition of the university instilled by the Sisters.”

Francis is pursuing two master’s degrees at the University of Pittsburgh in public health and international development.

Megan Kunst of Edinboro University, Brianna Woods of Gannon University and Chelsea Chase of Penn State Behrend were also nominated for the award. The winner was announced today at the ATHENA Awards Luncheon.