Outstanding graduates have big plans
Engineers, accountants, athletes and scientists will be among the more than 10,000 – the largest spring quarter graduating class ever – who will earn degrees during commencement exercises on June 10 in Ohio Stadium. The ceremony celebrates the academic achievements and hard work students have put forth to earn their degrees. Each graduate will receive their own diploma at the ceremony, a practice rarely attempted by a university the size of Ohio State.
It is Ohio State’s 400th commencement and the university’s final ceremony on the quarter system. Ohio State switches to a semester calendar on June 18.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice will deliver the commencement address. Some graduates will continue their education, and others will use their education and experience to enter the workforce.
Outstanding graduates who are using their degrees to take them anywhere: They include:
Ena Brnjic will graduate with a BS in Psychology and BA in Sexuality Studies. She plans to continue her studies at the University of Nebraska.
A native of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Brnjic moved to the United States at age 7 with her family after spending five years as refugees in Germany. She has been in the United States for 15 years – growing up in Mentor – and considers herself an American. Brnjic is proud of her Bosnian Croat heritage, and says her background as a refugee and immigrant from Bosnia, which is directly linked to the conflict that occurred there in the early 90s, has been the driving force in her interest in psychology.
As a student, she spent a lot of time conducting research in the Department of Psychology. She also has worked during her entire four-year student career in the Welcome Center at the RPAC. She also has worked as a hospital advocate with the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, and staffing a suicide hotline. Brnjic’s younger sister, Maria, will be a freshman at Ohio State beginning in August.
Carolyn McGinnis is graduating with a B.A. in International Studies – with a concentration in security studies – with minors in Economics and German. McGinnis grew up in a military family and lived all over the United States from California, to Maine, to Hawaii, to Washington D.C., as well as abroad in Japan and Italy. The experiences helped her develop an appreciation in the international community. She will take her military family background to an internship with the American Red Cross in their Services to Armed Forces department, where she will support military families and also assist in outreach to local refugee populations.
McGinnis has earned her degree in three years, including one summer on campus and another summer studying abroad in Germany. Beyond the classroom, she has worked as a University Ambassador, giving campus tours to prospective students and also works at University Archives.
Rebecca Rapport will earn a BA in Strategic Communication with minors in Spanish and Gender Studies. Following commencement she will attend graduate school at the University of Illinois Chicago, for a master’s degree in Public Health.
Rapport is a 4th generation Buckeye, with roots dating to 1923, when her great-grandmother, Florence Koch, entered her first year at The Ohio State University. Her grandfather, grandmother, mother and more than 25 other relatives followed in her footsteps. She says, “Buckeye pride is not just a part of my college life; it is a part of my family tradition and a major part of my identity.”
Although she completed her degree requirements in March, she is marching in spring commencement to keep a promise to her grandfather that she would walk in the “Shoe” in spring commencement.
The Denver, CO native shares her passion for Ohio State as with prospective students as a University Ambassador and previously interned in the Department of Athletics.
She was a member of the homecoming court this year and is active in her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi; serving as president last year. She is also active in Jewish life on campus, including the Wexner Hillel and Schottenstein Chabad House. She also was part of Student Leadership Advocates and the Ohio Union Activities Board.
Brendan Adams is the first member of his family to earn a college degree, but not the last as his sister is a sophomore at Ohio State. The Anaheim, California native will graduate with a B.A. in International Studies with a focus in Development, and a minor and Spanish.
Following graduation, the Anaheim, CA native will be teaching high school English as part of Teach for America in Mississippi.
In addition to studying, Adams started a student organization which has grown to be very successful, served on the Ohio State Alumni Association Student-Alumni Council and helped manage university’s campus tour program for prospective students.
Rachel Kominsky has not had a lot of free time as a student. She will graduate with two degrees – a BS in microbiology, a BA in Spanish and a minor in public health and plans to study medicine at Temple University School of Medicine.
Kominsky says she has spent all of her four years taking advantage of all that Ohio State has to offer.
Kominsky, from Highland Heights, started and leads the Ohio State chapter of Camp Kesem, for kids with a parent who has or had cancer, which she says provided insight into the healthcare and cancer support community in Columbus. She led a group of students to raise $17,000 to send 20 kids to the camp that the chapter will organize and staff.
In addition, Kominsky works in a research lab that studies tuberculosis disease progression, gives tours to prospective students, is a member of the Ohio Union Activities Board (a group that plans large campus-wide events) and College Mentors for Kids, a one-on-one mentoring program that exposes at-risk kids to college.
She also has studied abroad in Argentina in a language-immersion and traveled to rural Peru with Ohio State students on a medical volunteering trip.
Shawn O’Meara will graduate with a BA in political science and a minor in history. Following graduation, he will join Teach for America for two years and teach fifth grade in Houston, Texas. A native of Westlake, O’Meara says his study abroad trip to China last summer was a life-defining experience. It led him to study the Chinese language and to complete an honors thesis on China’s trade relationship with other countries.
In addition to his studies, O’Meara has been involved in student government, the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta and the Collegiate Council on World Affairs.
His younger brother, Connor, is finishing his first year at Ohio State’s Mansfield campus.
O’Meara says “Ohio State is a special place because of the people here and the sense of community that they create. Being a part of that community makes me want to strive to be more, and achieve more.”
Paloma Escobedo will graduate with a BA in communications and a minor in business. A student athlete, she competed nationally on Ohio State’s women’s tennis team for four years (2007-11).
Escobedo recruited to Ohio State on a full ride academic scholarship in 2007 and will be the second in her family to graduate from college.
A native of Houston, TX, Escobedo says she is lucky to have a lot of options after graduation. She plans to play in professional tennis tournaments, work as an assistant tennis coach in a New Jersey high school, tour Latin America, and also plans to help and counsel children and women in abuse shelters.
As a student, Escobedo has been involved in many activities beyond the classroom including Athletes in Action (a Christian student-athlete group) and the Latino Student Association. She also has enjoyed visiting schools to talk to younger students about her experiences as an Ohio State student and athlete.
Robert Zupke will graduate with a BS in electrical engineering. Following graduation, he will be working for Apple at their headquarters in California doing hardware design.
Zupke says as a youngster, he was always taking things apart to see how they worked – except he couldn’t take apart computer chips, which motivated him to study electrical and computer engineering.
In addition to his studies, Zupke has been a part of the engineering organizations including Eta Kappa Nu (where he is currently president) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, where he is webmaster for the Ohio State student branch. He also is a member of the ski club and plays intramural sports.
Drew Enigk, from Cincinnati, will graduate with a BS in agriculture, along with minors in life sciences, neuroscience and physical anthropology. He will continue his education at the University of New Mexico on a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and plans to earn a PhD in evolutionary anthropology. As part of that, he plans to conduct research on the behavior the behavior and endocrinology of wild chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda.
As a student, Enigk’s most meaningful experiences have taken place through research and study abroad. The Cincinnati native has traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, and Brazil and performed research at Ohio State, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Columbus Zoo.
In addition to his research on animal behavior, Enigk also has participated in Sphinx Senior Class Honorary, and serve as an ambassador of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Andrea Blinkhorn will earn BA degrees in political science and international studies with a minor in French. Following graduation, she will be a Teach for China Fellow teaching English to middle school students in rural China. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in international public policy following her work in China.
As a student, Blinkhorn has been involved in student government, sorority and fraternity life, the Undergraduate Research Office and the Collegiate Council on World Affairs. The Mesa, AZ native also has worked in the university’s Student Athlete Support Services office, and studied abroad twice; once in Turkey and once in Poland.
Blanca Bernal will graduate with her second Ohio State degree – a PhD in environment and natural resources. She earned her master’s degree in 2008. A native of Spain, Bernal studied at Ohio State’s Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. Bernal’s advisor says, “her research on carbon sequestration in wetlands is going to have some of the biggest effects of both protecting wetlands and helping to minimize climate change as probably any one student's research will have accomplished in the last decade.” She is interested in protecting natural resources and hopes to continue to hone her expertise as a post-doctoral student and solve sustainability problems.
She was motivated by a project focused on a refugee settlements – making sure people are living under appropriate conditions and using the resources of the area, but keeping the resources from being over-exploited so others could live there next – and she hopes to work on similar projects that improve lives and the environment.
When not in the classroom or doing research, Bernal has enjoyed the diversity of student backgrounds and interests at Ohio State and in Columbus.
Alice Jacobson will earn a BS in Allied Health Professions in respiratory therapy. She plans to work as a respiratory therapist and hopes to eventually return to school to become a physician assistant.
Jacobson, who was convinced to attend Ohio State while touring campus, now enjoys sharing her Ohio State experiences while working as a university ambassador who gives campus tours to prospective students.
A native of New Jersey, Jacobson is a registered respiratory therapist and a respiratory care practitioner and also works at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a Respiratory Care Assistant.
Earlier, Jacobson worked as a student research assistant in the cardiology research laboratory and had the opportunity to dissect and run experiments on a human heart. She also co-authored a published abstract from her research experience. She is hoping to graduate with honors and distinction by completing a research project about pulmonary rehabilitation in the cystic fibrosis patient population.
Jacobson also was president, treasurer and a member of Dancesport at OSU (a ballroom dance organization), and is a professional ski instructor.
Jenna Albers will graduate with a BA in strategic communications. Following graduation, she will be working for Cyril-Scott Company in Lancaster, a company she connected with at a campus career fair.
Albers began her Ohio State education at the Lima campus and transferred to Columbus last June. Throughout her college career, she has worked to improve her resume with internships and jobs that helped grow her skills. Those positions have included an internship at WBNS-TV,
office work at the Ohio State Lima campus, summer work at Grand Lake St. Mary’s State Park, and photographer for UWeekly magazine. She also is a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Albers, from New Bremen, says “My parents have taught me the importance of being financially responsible and this essential lesson has continued to motivate me to remain employed while being a full-time student to achieve a college degree with minimal debt.”
Albers says one of her most meaningful experiences at Ohio State was an alternative spring break trip through the Newman Center at Ohio State Lima called “The Christian Appalachian Project “Work Fest.” The trip involved working on homes of low income people in Kentucky and helped her see the impact that service and giving to others can have.
Scott Ijaz will graduate with a BS degree in philosophy with a minor in evolutionary studies. Following graduation, this summer, he will be working at The Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank in New York, working on a bioethical thesis.
Ijaz specializes in sociobiology; a field which observes the intersection between science and the humanities, which he says helps to answer questions he has had since he was little. Next academic school year, he will attend the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as a post graduate visiting scholar and continuing his project from the Hastings Center.
In addition to his studies, Ijaz has studied abroad in Turkey and Mexico, written for the U-Weekly newspaper, and worked as a university ambassador giving campus tours to prospective students and international visitors. He also has directed the Bioethics Society and through it helped establish a bioethics minor through the Personalized Study Program. He also participated in the Ski Club and intramural table tennis.
Bryan Ashton will graduate with a BSBA with a specialization in accounting. Following graduation, he will be moving to New York City to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the nation’s big four accounting firms.
Ashton, from Bethel Park, PA, says he enjoys accounting since it represents the backbone of the business as it is directly related to the financial statements and financial health of a company.
He says his most meaningful experiences at Ohio State have involved student government. He spent three years in Undergraduate Student Government, two years as chair of the Council on Student Affairs and was part of several other groups including the No Place For Hate Task Force, the Sexual Violence Committee and the Wellness Collaborative. Within the Fisher College of Business, Ashton was president of the Fisher Citizenship Program, a member of Alpha Kappa Psi and a member of the Business Scholars program.
Pranav Reddy will graduate with a BA in political science and BS in microbiology with a minor in Public Health. Following graduation, he will work for a public health nonprofit in India as a Clinton Fellow for a year; and then attend medical school at Brown University.
Reddy was part of the Ohio State Homecoming Court in last fall, and says rushing the field after the Wisconsin game with his homecoming sash, friends, family and other members of the court is an experience he’ll never forget.
Reddy, from Mayfield Heights, has traveled abroad to Nicaragua and India to research and work with health NGOs, interned with Canadian Parliament, and worked as a research assistant for the Center for Personalized Health Care at the Wexner Medical Center. He is also president of the Bioethics Society, and participated in Yale’s summer program on bioethics.
Byron Edgington will graduate after nearly 40-year “gap year” away from Ohio State.
Edington, who will earn a BA in English, writes, “When I cross the stage in The Shoe June 10th, and President Gee hands me a diploma I’ll be 27 days short of my 64th birthday. That’s more than your average gap year. Mom and Dad are getting pretty anxious. For my young classmates whose parents are pushing you to just graduate already and get on with it, take heart. It’s never too late. Look at me.
“I was drafted into the Army in 1969. The short version has me in Vietnam flying helicopters, then home in 1971, marriage, family, kids, a long career in commercial aviation, then retirement in 2005. I was financially set, reasonably content, madly in love with my wife, great kids, in good health, a happy guy. I could have putzed around the house, fondled the remote, tended my tomato plants, prepared my will.
“So why did I return to OSU to finish a degree in English? To steal the old aphorism from the mountain climbers: because it was there. I’d been diverted halfway up the mountain years ago, and decided to resume the climb. I’m glad I did, for a lot of reasons.
“It’s been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, and I’ve had a lot of them. Not just because I’m filling a gap like marking off a bucket list item, but because of what I re-discovered here at OSU. I’ve never believed the world is a zero-sum business. I’m convinced that in every challenge, every opportunity, every human interaction there are ways that allow everyone to win. I’ve had that belief affirmed here at Ohio State. This campus is a mountain rich with resources.
“I may be the only undergrad at OSU who is on Social Security, but my story isn’t unique. Ohio State is such a rich resource that everyone benefits from it whether a student, staff, employee or citizen of Ohio.”
Evan Davis is graduating with BA. degrees in international studies and Portuguese, with minors in Latin American studies and world politics. As a student, he has worn the titles of ambassador, king, actor and intern.
After graduation, Davis will attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins University for a master’s degree in International Studies with a focus on Economics and Latin American Studies. He will spend the first year at their Bologna, Italy campus and will return to the US for the second year in the program.
Davis, from Xenia, Ohio, interned at the Ohio State House of Representatives, participated in research, led various student groups, worked as a University Ambassador and studied abroad 5 times. He also participated in Off the Lake productions, MUNDO, Model African Union and Sigma Iota Rho International Studies Honors Society. He was crowned Homecoming King last autumn quarter.
Kathryn Bashour will graduate with BA degrees in communications and in international studies with a minor in Spanish. Following graduation, she is moving to Washington, DC to work for a private contracting company that does international development in conjunction with USAID.
One of Bashour’s favorite memories as a student at Ohio State is “fist bumping with my advisors after learning I had landed my internship at the State Department. I think they were more excited than I was!”
In addition to completing two internships and studying abroad in Turkey, Bashour has been active beyond the classroom. She was president of her sorority, Tri Delta, served as director of scholarships for the PanHellenic Association, and is a member of several honor societies, including Golden Key Honour Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Kappa Phi and Order of Omega. In addition, she worked at the Ohio Union as a development intern.
Kevin Hidas, who will graduate with two degrees – a BS in Business Administration specializing in finance and a BA in international studies—is excited to represent Ohio State’s largest ever graduating class.
He plans to study law at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law and eventually practice corporate law, specifically in mergers and acquisitions in the energy industry. Hidas entered Ohio State in 2008, and says the economic downturn has made him passionate about the intersection of business and government policy.
The Massillon native has been a Resident Advisor and a University Ambassador and says the ability to positively impact the experiences of new and future Buckeyes has been extremely rewarding.
Hidas is an avid long distance runner who has completed six marathons, including four Columbus Marathons. He recently began running obstacle course races, including the “Tough Mudder,” an 11 mile 26 obstacle race designed by British Special Forces. He also led “The Lumberjacks,” an Ohio State intramural ice hockey team.
Meagan Woodall, from Centerville, will graduate with BA degrees in Political Science and Spanish. Not only a double-major, Woodall is graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude with honors, and completed her course work in four years. She plans to study law at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law.
In addition to outstanding work in her classes, Woodall has spent time in many student organizations including University Ambassadors, the Honors Program, Student Leadership Advocates and Mock Trial at OSU. She has been president of Greek Week 2012, part of Delta Zeta Sorority, the PanHellenic Association and others. She also studied abroad in Spain.
Woodall says her involvement with student organizations has helped her make lifelong friendships and large networks that she will enjoy for many years. She says, “How firm thy friendship definitely is a term that I apply to my time at the university.”