Honor Bound Fall/Winter 2020

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Coronavirus Plagues Best-Laid Plans Reflections from 15 Aspire Scholars Honors graduate makes impact with Emmy Award-winning film



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We believe that in today’s polarized society it is necessary to teach and practice tolerance through non-partisan, open-minded conversation about controversial and important topics. Pennoni Honors College’s Center for Civil Discourse serves as a gathering place for students, staff, faculty, and members of the community to openly discuss, debate, disagree, and engage with opposing viewpoints through panel discussions, casual conversations and interviews. The Center serves as a role model for how we should conduct ourselves as citizens.

Wednesdays at the Kline In partnership with Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, Wednesdays at the Kline Pennoni Panels develops a space to engage with complex themes and opens dialogues across campus and Philadelphia. RSVP to the next

brings together community members as well as students, staff, and faculty, for a weekly moderated discussion of topics in the news.

Pennoni Panel at drexel.edu/pennoni

Dean’s Teas Whether in person or online, Dean’s Teas provide Honors College students a chance to chat informally and engage in intellectual conversation on a The Civil Discourse, an interview series appearing online and on PBS

particular topic.

Dear Friends of Pennoni Honors College, This has been a challenging time for all of us. We in the Pennoni Honors College find ourselves with a beautiful new building — the Gregory and Caroline Bentley Hall — but unable to occupy it fully. Undergraduate students were not on campus this fall and coursework and programming have been entirely online. Still, some of our Pennoni staff have moved into the building, and some of us have held ad hoc meetings with students living in the area in one of our three spacious seminar rooms. We have done surprisingly well presenting our various activities online. Along with offering a full roster of seminar classes on Zoom — including Eric Zillmer’s course on Happiness and Cordelia Biddle’s Writing Killer Fiction — we hosted online workshops and panels about seminar teaching; moved our STAR Scholar Program online; and intensified the advising and mentorship of our Honors Program and Custom-Designed Major students. We hosted an array of lively online panels and community discussions; we continued to publish our online journal The Smart Set (thesmartset.com) and produce our podcast, Pop, the Question and TV interview show, The Civil Discourse; and we held virtual mock interviews for our fellowship candidates, resulting in substantial numbers of Fulbright and other fellowship awards. We are proud to announce our first finalist for the prestigious and highly competitive Rhodes Scholarship. Life online has gone smoothly, though we are eager to return to campus where we can see our students in person and take advantage of our new building in all its glass and granite splendor. We are hoping that some of you will help Pennoni launch or expand on some of the initiatives designed to raise Drexel’s profile and serve its students, consider funding a STAR Scholar, or contribute to

television affiliates, explores controversial topics in the spirit of civil

naming spaces in the new building. Please contact me at cohenpm@drexel.edu or our Institutional

discourse. Visit The Civil Discourse YouTube channel or check your local television listings (WHYY Y2, PhillyCAM, and DUTV in Philadelphia)

From the Dean

Center for Civil Discourse

For more information:

Advancement Officer, Susan Baren-Pearson at sb3488@drexel.edu, if you wish to contribute.


Paula Marantz Cohen A segment of "My Year in Review - A Reflection on Turning Challenge into Opportunity" by Emily Mah, animation & visual effects ’23, Honors.

Dean, Pennoni Honors College

View the full illustration at emilysmah.com/aspire-reflection. See more from the 2019-20 Aspire Scholars cohort on page 8.

Distinguished Professor of English 215.895.1266 • cohenpm@drexel.edu 1

CONTENTS Fall/Winter 2020


In Brief







How Pennoni’s STAR Scholars Program Still Went According to Plan Despite the Pandemic


Making Films and Making Impact





(Re)Directing Our Goals BY MARTHA MEIERS



Coronavirus Plagues Best-Laid Plans BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER

PHC Magazine is published biannually by the

There is No Planet B



Director: Dr. Kevin D. Egan

Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs

Editorial Staff

Associate Director: Dr. Katie Barak

Director: Jaya Mohan

Editor: Erica Levi Zelinger

Assistant Director, Honors Program:

Senior Associate Director: Leah Gates

Dean: Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen

Marketing & Media team of Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College. Comments? Contact us at pennoni@drexel.edu


Copy Editor: Dr. Melinda Lewis Designer: Isabella Akhtarshenas

Academic Programs

Julia Wisniewski

Associate Director: Kelly Weissberger

Senior Academic Advisor: Joseph M. Santangelo

Assistant Director: Emily Kashka-Ginsburg

Program Manager: Lauren Davis

Program Manager: Martha Meiers Program Manager: Roxane Lovell

Administration Director, Administration & Finance: Ann Alexander

Marketing & Media

Executive Assistant to the Dean: Karen Sams

Director: Erica Levi Zelinger Associate Director: Dr. Melinda Lewis

Program Coordinator: Cara Fantini

Alumni News


You can make a difference! When you make a gift to the Pennoni Honors College, you support the tradition of an interdisciplinary education. Every gift counts. To learn more about how you can support the Honors College, contact: Susan Baren-Pearson 215.571.4907 sb3488@drexel.edu

Assistant Director: Brian Kantorek



In Brief


roduction on the premiere season of The

Civil Discourse (hosted by Pennoni Honors College Dean Paula Marantz Cohen) went virtual during the pandemic earlier this year.

Following episodes previously recorded with former

New York Times staffer Bari Weiss and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (among others), virtual conferencing enabled additional interview recordings with notable names in media: New York Times civil rights investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones;




NBC News correspondent and MSNBC show host Ali Velshi; preventive health specialist and Yale professor Dr. David L. Katz; and former editor of The Chronicle

of Higher Education Jeffrey Selingo.

e are pleased to announce the merger of the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Center for Scholar Development into a new, hybrid

entity: Undergraduate Research and Enrichment

As a program of Pennoni’s new Center for Civil

Programs (UREP), under the directorship of Jaya

Discourse, The Civil Discourse interview series

Mohan. This merged office will include under-

carries on the legacy of its longstanding predecessor

graduate research initiatives, including STAR and

The Drexel InterView and is now appearing on PBS

Supernova; fellowships advising; and enrichment

television affiliates across the country via the National

programs, including the Aspire Scholars program.

Educational Telecommunications Association.

We feel confident that the overlapping work of the two former units will be better harnessed on behalf

To catch the program, check your local PBS listings or

of the College under the new structure. Our hope is

subscribe to The Civil Discourse on YouTube.

to serve our students better and smarter.

For additional links, inquiries, and guest appearances, visit drexel.edu/the-civil-discourse.



ecent custom-designed major graduate Lily Lauben collaborated with a team of students from Westphal

Honor Bound has taken home a ladle

and the College of Computing and

(second place) in the magazines category

Informatics on a video game that

of the 2020 Pepperpot Awards, sponsored

cultivates empathy for refugees. The

by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public

game, titled Resilience, won Games

Relations Society of America.

for Change’s “Best Student Game” award this past year. Lily served as

Edited by Erica Levi Zelinger, copyedited

Executive Producer for the humani-

by Dr. Melinda Lewis, and designed

tarian game in which the player must

by Pennoni Honors College graduate

help maintain a refugee camp for a

Diane Pizzuto, graphic design ’10 and former co-op Isabella Akhtarshenas, graphic design ’19, the print and digital publications were recognized for their success in promoting Pennoni Honors College achievements among its current students and alumni. 4

group of displaced extraterrestrials.

bleedingcool.com/ games/games-forchange-reveal-their2020-best-of-videogame-xr-winners/


In Brief



ennoni Honors College partnered with Dr. Frank Lee to help him promote Civil Dialog, his projection-based interactive installation that appeared on the side of Nesbitt Hall for four nights, from August 12–15.

Civil Dialog used Twitter to showcase a real-time discussion on wide-ranging topics such as COVID-19, race relations and Election 2020. Over the course of four evenings, a total of 30 questions were projected with a total of 258 responses for an average of 8.6 responses per question. Version 2 of Civil Dialog appeared on Nesbitt wall as part of Philly Tech Week, from September 21-25. For more information, go to @civil_dialog on Twitter.


ndergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs was recently awarded funding through Drexel’s Office of Research & Innovation for a “Rapid Response Grant” to fund research and projects related to racial equity. UREP will use this funding to

engage 10 underrepresented students in a research training workshop series this fall, and to placement in a paid part-time research opportunity with a faculty mentor of their choosing during Winter Term.



Upon completion of the research experience, these students will be offered acceptance into UREP’s SuperNova program if they are interested in continuing to engage in undergraduate research.



SDN students have a history of dominating escape rooms across Philadelphia (and the nation). So,


Director of Academic Programs, Dr. Kevin Egan,

feel that opening myself up to admit misunderstandings while also advocating for my own health are critical to keep a balanced work

life in today’s hectic environment … The freedom to be the judge of my own experience translated into a more confident work ethic.” —PATRICK HENDERSON, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, AN EXCERPT FROM PATRICK’S

developed a virtual escape room to test the latest class

of incoming Honors Program students. Ninety-seven students across 19 teams took to their screens to help track down the student who left his backpack in a building on campus. Want to see if you can succeed, too? ESCAPE HERE:

http://bit.ly/escape-room-honors-college  Use these clues to solve the puzzle:





Consider This


Through Pennoni’s yearlong Aspire Scholars program, students build skills around professional communications. They grow their network, actively reaching out to alumni and professionals in their field of interest.


“Coming into the Aspire Scholars program, I set myself a goal — to continue exploring the versatility of animation and find opportunities beyond the campus community.”


“The last piece of advice I received was from a woman working as a team lead biologist at the U.S. Department of Energy with hydropower and fish passage; she emphasized that when things change, I need to embrace the situation because it might be the best time to make meaningful improvements. In the face of a pandemic and a multitude of changes happening around the world, I took her advice and used my additional time at home to reach out and learn from others … Networking has taught me so much about the world and how I can make

Emily developed a full cartoon that reflects

an impact on the renewable energy industry. Without the alumni, professors, peers, and

on her sophomore year. View the cartoon at:

professionals who answered my questions with insight and care, I would not be anywhere close


to my goals today. They have all helped me to get one step closer in clarifying my future and solving my puzzle. I want to sincerely thank everyone that has helped me because without them I would still see my future as unsolvable.”

Regardless of the paths students have taken to get to this point, they come together through common goals, a strong sense of purpose, and a desire to build their own paths moving forward. Diverse in their backgrounds, majors, and experiences, Aspire Scholars are charged with personal goal-setting,

Making Contacts

self-reflection, and making space to really think about what


kind of future they want to build — a kind of space not often


allotted in Drexel’s fast-paced environment. But after a rollercoaster academic year, filled with uncertainty, unrest, and “unprecedented” challenges, 15 sophomores in Pennoni’s 2019-20 Aspire Scholars program, showed commitment, resilience, and creativity at an impressive level. With the transition to online learning and working, cancellation and postponement of co-ops, and a move back home, a move-in with extended family, or a prolonged stay in a foreign country, the 2019-20 Aspire Scholars had many reasons to disengage — but they didn’t. They kept showing up, kept communicating, and continued to network to build toward their own goals — even if that meant shifting their paths and altering their plans in unexpected ways. As the third cohort wrapped up their program this past

“Being in Aspire puts you in contact with people who are not cogs, but a machine themselves. They do not go with the flow but make their own stream of choices, regardless of other people’s opinions. This group has helped me grow and work on myself as a person. All conversations are genuine — about the world we live in and what the future may hold. It was a bubble full of energy and aspiration.”

summer, they were tasked with one final project: reflect on this year and their time in Aspire, and translate that reflection using their medium of choice. The quotes that follow, pulled from submitted essays, videos, and other digital mediums — abridged in format — show an inspiring display of learning, growth, and potential. These projects will be shared with future cohorts to encourage their own development and continue a legacy of mentorship and peer support that all Aspire Scholars have helped to establish.




“This month was a great month because I finally got my first mentor ever! It wasn’t a task or anything, but the Apsire program definitely motivated me to get myself a mentor. I remember one thing I learnt from our January session about finding a good mentor was finding someone who is willing to teach and simply want to help you because no matter how high that person’s status is — if she/he isn’t willing to teach you, then it’s not worth it. Well, my mentor was an adjunct professor for one of my classes during this time and seeing how often he passionately gave real-life experiences in class, I realized there’s a lot more he could teach me if I ask him. So, thank you so much Aspire program for giving me that push and thank you to my mentor who continues to give me great advice!”


“By being introduced to a community that focuses so heavily on professional growth, I have felt more motivated in making connections and actually thinking of how I can utilize them to learn more about what I can do in my major … Aside from all I have learned about communication, networking, mentorship, and planning, being in Aspire Scholars has encouraged me to actually have the confidence to put these skills into action. Now, I approach potential employers or

Pivoting During the Pandemic DIOTIMA ROY, BS ECONOMICS ’23, HONORS


“All of my experiences have a common theme of community. And I find that community is important to me. For the future, I want to play a key role within a safe and inclusive community that continually cares for the well-being of others. I want to work as a physician in family care or pediatrics and provide accessible health care to those in need … Health care is a human right, not a privilege, and everyone should have the right to be healthy and okay. I will do my best to see that future … It was reassuring to be accepted into the 2019-2020 Aspire program because it reminded me I was not alone in my uncertainty. Aspire gave me the time to reflect and

motivated students helped me push myself to set and achieve goals. I have a solid plan for what I want to do and have reached out for new opportunities that I can take moving forward for my future goals in medicine.”


want in my future. I also take the time to learn about other avenues available in case my future plans change once again.”

“I immersed myself in new opportunities that arose. Instead of the co-op I had envisioned, I ended up in a research co-op, which I am enjoying very much. Study abroad may be a distant dream for now, but I am planning to brush up on my language skills instead by taking a Spanish class next term. As my e-board


and I make more difficult decisions regarding our

“Through the Aspire Scholars program, I was able to

campus organization than we’d anticipated during

sharpen my networking skills and learn new ways to

these unprecedented times, I feel like a stronger and

connect with people, whether it was through platforms

more responsible leader…The pandemic ruined all

such as LinkedIn and Handshake, or simply through

my plans, true, but it also made me challenge my

my existing network. These skills immediately led me

long-held beliefs and grow as a person…I needed to

to successfully set up multiple informational interviews

let go of my rigidness to be able to make the best of

where I was able to connect with a range of professionals

the situation, and I am grateful that I was able to rise

for detailed insights on all possible career paths … To

up to the challenges that life presented and use them

be completely honest, I thought that by the end of

as a learning experience for the future.”

sophomore year I would have had the rest of my years at Drexel planned out, but that took a drastic turn when

gain networking skills essential to guide me along my personal path. Being surrounded by a cohort of

mentors with more confidence and more questions, as I have finally been able to clarify what I

the pandemic hit. It has brought a ton of uncertainty


for my future. However, it allowed me to realize what it truly means to be flexible and adaptable and where my personal and career priorities lie. Even though I wasn’t able to complete the rest of the program in-person, I was able to experience this journey with 14 other inspiring and highly motivated individuals.”


The Future: An Aspire Scholars Program Reflection

Aspire Reflection: a ramble about commitment, goals, and change



“When you’re doing something big, something that may take years, like starting a business …

“I believe that dreaming big motivated me to venture beyond my home

these things take time and the thing about time is that we are impermanent, we are not magically

in Lagos, Nigeria, and dare to pursue an international college education.

resistant with time. We are going to change with it, and we need to recognize that. When you

But my exposure to new perspectives and previously unfamiliar niches

pursue goals… it’s okay to not accomplish them. It’s okay to be like, ‘I don’t want to do this

of academic pursuit at the university revealed to me that there was much more I desired to explore … with each different experience I reached for, my uncertainty about what my long-term goals were increased … when I learned of the Aspire Scholars program’s objective of providing a community for students to clarify their goals while I was doing research as a 2019 STAR Scholar, I immediately knew that I would benefit from the program … My change of major from mechanical engineering to materials science is an

anymore. This isn’t me. This was me, it was me a year ago, but it’s not who I am now’… As you


outward example of how my experiences as a participant of the program

“Through our activities, panels

have helped to clarify my plans for the future. But I believe I have also grown

and talks, one thing that stood

in intangible ways. I have greatly expanded my personal network, and more

out to me was the importance

importantly, I have come to a fuller appreciation of the value of cultivating

of reflection. Knowing yourself,

connections. Finally, while my aims and my hopeful paths to them are better

your passions, and goals helps

defined, I am by no means certain about the future. Nonetheless, I have

you make better decisions and

been equipped to face it with enthusiasm for what lies ahead.”

find your niche! As cliché as this may sound, try to step out of your comfort zone. Go to

grow and as your situation changes, your goal post moves with you.”



“Get involved in student organizations. Participating in organizations around Drexel can really help shape your social circle, your support network, as well as your interests. It’s a great opportunity to explore what you like, what you don’t like, and find out what you want to do in life. I think you should take every opportunity that you can, while not stressing yourself out too much, and manage your time delicately but be ambitious, because that’s what a Drexel Dragon does.”

that networking event or apply for that leadership position. It is through these uncomfortable situations that we see personal growth, meet awesome people, and get opportunities.”


“As someone from a low-income immigrant family,

Finding Rare Moments of Inner Peace TRANG HOANG, BS COMPUTER SCIENCE ’23, HONORS

I was raised to believe that a college degree is

“While presumably learning a new hobby and

a one-way ticket to the true ‘American Dream’,

trying to simply relax isn’t something that can be

characterized as a modest, middle-class lifestyle.

considered professionally oriented, painting and

As the youngest of four, I felt the need to compete

taking advantage of the world stopping refreshed

with my much older, high-achieving immigrant

me and gave me ideas of my future dream, where

siblings since I was considered the golden child

I want to work and what I want to work on … my

with the advantage of an American upbringing

rare moments of inner peace have gone a long way

and early education. This competitive complex

to putting me on the right track …Everything is

fueled my ambitious drive and eventually led to

not in great order yet. I have yet so many obstacles

my “peak”… Compared to last year, my anxiety has

to overcome, but I no longer feel alone, whether

eased as I am now better equipped with tools on

at work or at home. My commitments have seen

planning for the future … I am now confident about

many changes, and they are most likely to see even

reaching out to individuals online and have a better

more as I go. However, I am not afraid to make

understanding of how to develop professional

adjustment in my values, knowing that I will never

relationships with others …Now, I do not think I

lose my roots and that I have great mentors and a

have reached a ‘peak’. Life is simply filled with ups

high functional support system.”

and downs, but in the grand scale of life, I am only going up as I mature and grow as an individual.”



GAME CHANGER One alumna credits STAR as a catalyst for her career BY DR. MELINDA LEWIS

Claremont, New Hampshire is a rural town along the state’s border with Vermont. It’s allegedly the inspiration for writer Ellery Queen’s fictional Wrightsville, the setting for several of their murder mysteries. It’s probably better known to residents for its fishing opportunities in Sugar River and its hiking spots. Despite the cozy childhood offered in this New England town, Erin Truesdell, game design and production ’19, knew it was time to seek out city life. “Despite my rural upbringing, I’m happiest in an urban area,” she says. Inspired by her love of Pixar movies and computer programming, she decided to pursue game design. Drexel provided not only Philadelphia as a playground, but a major that housed all of her interests: “I hate to sound cliché here, but I realized on my first visit to Drexel that it was really

Working at the Entrepreneurial Game Studio (EGS) with

relationship she had with Lee throughout her college career

Dr. Frank Lee for her STAR Scholar work opened up doors

reinforced the significance of mentorship for Erin: “Having

for Erin. For EGS, Erin culled resources on computer science

someone knowledgeable have confidence in me, and being

education, pedagogy, gaming and developmental psychology

connected to a whole network of amazing and interesting

to articulate five pillars of effective curriculum that could be

people through that relationship has defined my journey as a

used to improve the models EGS was already using to engage

scholar,” she says. Early on, Lee encouraged Erin to consider

middle school-aged girls in STEM-based learning. Erin

PhD programs, which she at first rebuffed, but as she passed

would then continue at EGS as a co-op and even sign on as

through her collegiate career, seeking out more opportunities

an associate researcher during the summer between gradu-

like Pennoni’s Aspire Scholars program and applying for

ation and her start as a graduate student at Georgia Tech.

Fulbright, she realized a career in research and earning a PhD

She worked on grant applications, contributing to Hacktion,

were her next steps.

a mobile game that teaches users more about cybersecurity, and assisted with project proposals. The ongoing mentor

toward the future. Ideally, for her, this would mean

the right fit for what I wanted — I didn’t even apply to any other schools!” Erin is representative of the Drexel ethos: ambitious, entrepreneurial and dedicated. When she received the invitation to apply to the STAR Scholars Program during her senior year in high school, she recognized the potential immediately. It hit all of the boxes: the opportunity to live and work in the city between terms and contribute to interesting projects. “I’m so, so glad I took the time to fill out that application, because I can honestly say I would not be where I am, or the person I am today without having done that.” STAR would put her onto an unexpected but fruitful academic path.


One year into her digital media PhD program at Georgia Tech, Erin is, already like most Drexel grads, thinking


returning to where everything began to click for her: Drexel. Erin credits Honors College offerings as foundational to her career, particularly the STAR research opportunity that provided perfect conditions to discover her love for research, and instill the confidence needed to apply and attend graduate school. “It’s not always easy being the youngest and least experienced person in the room, in my classes or lab meetings, but recalling how many folks back at Drexel have faith in me makes that experience a little bit easier.”


CORONAVIRUS PLAGUES BEST-LAID PLANS One fellowship recipient accrues life lessons from cancelled co-op BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER


frah Howlader spent her spring/summer co-op

sending out her resume to other organizations and

Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS)

hospitals to see about openings, rejection after rejection

in Washington, D.C. She conducted research on

popped up in her in-box, and Afrah knew it would be more

agency’s aim to combat human trafficking. Afrah, public health ’21, honors, hopes to do similar work

and staff from Drexel. They were always willing to check

experience seemed like a natural fit.

in, encourage me, and offer advice. I also had friends who

2019, Afrah would have been working to support projects in the ministry’s communicable disease department. When she interviewed with Singapore’s Health

international co-op, Afrah has not only applied, received, and returned the Gilman (Recipients were given the option to defer their scholarship to another term, but unfortunately as this was Afrah’s only co-op cycle, she had to decline the scholarship), but she was also a Truman Scholarship and Marshall Scholarship campus nominee. Both of these scholarships provide funds for graduate school, which has always been part of Afrah’s academic trajectory.


planned to do international co-op, so it was nice to talk with people who were in the same position as me.” Resilient and principled, Afrah has already gleaned some good life lessons from her cancelled co-op. “This nontraditional co-op process taught me a lot about what can really go wrong in the job search, and how I can


he Truman Scholarship would have provided

paths among public health students and start exploring

$30,000 toward a graduate degree in public service,

options she finds both exciting and impactful.”

and though she found out in February that she

The process, Afrah adds, has also helped her hone down

didn’t receive it, her driving motive — being of

what she’d like to study in graduate school and what career

service to others — drove her journey as an applicant. “One major lesson I’ve learned is how to properly

paths she can have afterward. Afrah did not receive the Marshall either, but is still inter-

Promotion Board in early February, COVID-19 had

step up and try to overcome those challenges,” she says.

advocate for myself through writing,” Afrah says. “When

ested in focusing on disaster management, development, and

already reached the island city-state in Southeast Asia.

“One major lesson I learned was how to be more confident in

you apply for fellowships, you have to sound strong and

labor, and continuing similar work like she did at GFEMS.

Offices there had gone remote, and hosting an interna-

the entire process and be assertive about my needs.”

confident, especially because you are explaining why you

tional intern seemed out of the question. “It was definitely stressful to deal with a cancelled


Enrichment Programs or UREP), while looking for this

personally, since everyone was impacted by COVID-19. Thankfully, I had a lot of support from my friends, family,

from the Gilman Scholarship she’d received in November

Since discovering Pennoni’s Center for Scholar

Development (now a part of Undergraduate Research &

“It helped to remember to not take the rejections

efforts, with a focus in disaster management. This work Only Afrah was supposed to be co-oping in Singapore,

there and find a job.”

productive to look for possibilities in the U.S.

in her career, contributing to ongoing global humanitarian

working in their Ministry of Health. With financial support

this, but I knew it was necessary to put myself out

Even with help from her co-op advisor in Singapore

working remotely as a research intern at the

high-prevalence geographies and sectors as part of the


ormally,” Afrah admits, “I’d be uncomfortable doing

When she was looking for a job in Singapore, she had to be very direct and intentional about what she was looking

are a good fit for their scholarship.” As she has worked through these applications and

“Afrah is everything we look for in a Gilman, Truman, or Marshall,” says Gates. “She has built upon a record of academic achievement through applied experiences that

co-op alongside my academic and extracurricular activ-

for out of the experience, which she communicated with her

used them to reflect on her experiences, says Leah Gates,

have honed her skills as a young leader, and she is deter-

ities,” Afrah says about her winter term. “The situation

advisor. Once she switched to searching for a domestic co-op,

senior associate director of Undergraduate Research &

mined to apply those skills in ways that make the world a

was always changing so I knew I needed to step back and

Afrah reached out to her connections and countless people

Enrichment Programs. “I’ve watched Afrah become more

better, safer, and more just world for others.”

take it day-to-day.”

she didn’t know via LinkedIn just to get her foot in the door.

comfortable stepping away from the more commonly tread


OF SOUND MIND One student’s path to advancing the mental health field BY BRIAN KANTOREK

On Track with SoundMind


hile presenting her research at Harvard

As a woman of color, Saniya is highly cognizant of

University in January 2020 ( just before

SoundMind’s need to think about how to introduce

the start of the pandemic), Saniya sparked

culturally competent care with the resources the app

up a friendship and business plan with a

provides. While there is a wealth of mindfulness apps

likeminded peer plenary speaker from another university

(like Headspace and Calm), these don’t necessarily reach

whose research focuses on thanatosonics, or the weapon-

the needs of people of color by default. For Saniya, it is

ization of sound and how music therapy can address

important for SoundMind to combine Eastern and Western

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology. In

practice (particularly where mindfulness has roots in tradi-

late 2019, alongside other peers, the duo ignited the idea

tional Buddhist practices).

for SoundMind to promote the effects of music therapy

“It’s a two-pronged approach,” Saniya elaborates. “We

and meditation to help PTSD victims mitigate and manage

want to serve folks with PTSD and depression and to offer

traumatic episodes. Together, Saniya and her newfound

personalized, pre-recorded guided mindfulness medita-

business partners have beta launched a mental health app

tions.” To start, a user completes a survey to assess sympto-

aiming to reach a population in need of easily accessible

mology to direct them to specific meditations, journaling

therapeutic online support. “The goal is to eventually

exercises, and self-guided sound therapy. “The idea is that

subsidize the SoundMind app and its features to the point

there is one app that an individual can go to and access all

where we can offer it completely free and accessible to

the resources they would need in one place.”

those in low-income areas and to Black, Indigenous, and

Saniya’s most recent academic research has focused on

other people of color.” And, although not specifically geared

how mindfulness can be used as a predictor of learned

toward veterans, SoundMind is now in the process of

helpfulness; this complements the research work she now

partnering with the United States Department of Defense

does for SoundMind. She seeks to answer the question:

to provide its service to government personnel, as well

Can we use mindfulness-based treatment to prevent

as frontline workers and first responders experiencing

learned helplessness and to, ultimately, prevent onset

trauma. “It’s not a replacement for therapy, of course,” notes

PTSD and depression?

Saniya, “but making resources more publicly available will help ease the exponential growth of diagnoses.”

I 18

n a singular year of cultural uprising and a global

The San Francisco Bay Area native came to Philadelphia

public health pandemic, efforts to ensure mental

and Drexel University to seek answers around mental

wellness emerge as a priority. But before 2020 changed

wellness and trauma. Not necessarily research-oriented as

life for everyone, senior undergraduate psychology

a high school student or incoming undergraduate, oppor-

major and criminal justice minor Saniya Soni had already done

tunities for inquiry found Saniya at a time when she was

quite a bit of thinking about mental wellness, particularly in

making a fresh start as a college student and defining her

relation to her own formative experiences. As an ambassador

identity. Fast forward several years and she is now chief

for The Jed Foundation, a national non-profit focusing on

research officer of a startup called SoundMind Solutions,

youth mental health education and suicide prevention, she

offering online therapy alternatives for those experiencing

wanted to find a path to promote wellness for others.

depression and anxiety stemming from past trauma.



Research at the Root


n a UNIV 101 course during her freshman year at Drexel, Saniya fortuitously connected with the psychology department’s Dr. Danette Morrison who invited Saniya to join her team as a Pennoni

STAR Scholar. Along with the Department of Psychology, Pennoni’s former Office of Undergraduate Research (which recently became part of Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs or UREP), funded conference travel and provided Saniya with much of the support she needed to explore her nascent research interests. “STAR Scholars was the start of all of this,” Saniya reflects. “It propelled my whole research career.” This first-year experience would help the new psychology student gain familiarity with foundational research necessary for a broader research trajectory, graduate study, and a promising career in the field. Saniya soon joined Dr. Morrison’s team as a STAR Scholar to conduct research on academic achievement

A Path Forward

in predominantly African-American high schools. They observed how learned helplessness (the concept of loss


of control) plays into the development of depression and anxiety. From there, Saniya attended and presented at academic research conferences, including the Stanford Research Conference, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and the Association for Psychological Science. The former high school debater always enjoyed public speaking, but now she’d found a Saniya’s research presentation experiences have undergraduate peers and professionals in the field. She has since applied for Institutional Review Board

support in determining depression and anxiety among Asian American undergraduates. In addition, she gained valuable Drexel co-op experience at the Drucker Brain Injury Center at Moss Rehab at Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia. The unique clinical experience allowed Saniya to work in traumatic brain injury therapy for community re-entry among low-income clients and learn about health administration. It was there that she first took an interest in the practice of mindfulness.


process was significant and cumulative to her experience.

a business plan; reaching out to investors;

“This was a great opportunity for me to figure out my

and developing mindfulness recordings.

15-year plan, which I never had before. Going through the

“SoundMind just completely came out of nowhere,” adds

process gave me a chance to completely solidify that and

Saniya in response to the trajectory of her research in

start thinking about graduate school.”

As she approaches her March 2021 graduation date,

connected her with an entire community, including

now focus on learned helplessness and levels of parental

Saniya never reached the Truman finals, the application

her life and career would take: developing

psychology and mental wellness.

similar fervor for presenting research.

approval and continued her STAR research model to

aniya never thought this would be a direction


Now, living a new reality back at home with her mother and younger sister in San Jose, Calif. for the first time

Saniya is in the throes of prepping for the GRE and

since moving east for college, Saniya is learning a lot

applying for PhD programs in clinical psychology. She

about how to adjust to new standards of wellness. “I

hopes to eventually become licensed to practice as part

definitely shifted my self-care routine a lot. I’ve tried to

of an organization utilizing a team model approach to

be outside more and plants have been my little coping

working with clients. Saniya anticipates that working

mechanism,” she snickers. At the very beginning of the

with at-risk youth or in a juvenile detention facility would

pandemic, it was important to Saniya to go easy on herself

also incorporate the education she has been receiving as

in the thick of social pressure to make the most of shifts

a criminal justice minor. “One thing that I realized while

in culture and scheduling, as she learned how her level of

growing up is that psychologists don’t know everything,

productivity doesn’t need to equate to value.

especially in the case of legal aspects with at-risk youth. It’s

“As a person of color, there’s only so much emotional labor

important that the psychologist is aware of those issues and

I can expend in certain places, educating where I can, but

I want to provide care that is helpful.”

also recognizing that there’s only so much I can do.”

As a recent Truman Scholarship applicant through the

Saniya understands the importance of balancing her goals

Honors College, Saniya logically focused on a similar

with the self-care and mental wellness she seeks to promote

mental health advocacy platform. She wrote about policy to

through her research experiences, as well as through her

increase public school budgets to have more and better-

involvement with JED and SoundMind. “If I just want to

trained psychologists staffing the country’s schools. While

sit and be by myself for a few hours, it’s okay.”


ion iss m *R fro epr m int Dr ed ex wi elN th ow per




Though it takes place a full three terms after they arrive on campus, some first-year students who participate in

who decide to participate in STAR

summer going into their second year

Scholars and are accepted do so even

plan to do so even before they arrive on

before they arrive on campus. Whether it’s

campus for the first time as Dragons.

the stipend — which this year was raised

However well they plan in advance,

from $3,500 to $4,500 for the summer

this year’s cohort of research scholars

because the students couldn’t be housed

certainly couldn’t have expected what the

on campus — or the connections with

COVID-19 pandemic would have in store

faculty mentors that attract them, many

for them and the program this summer.

like Andrea Eleazar do not find compa-

That is, completing research and final

rable programs available to first-year

poster board presentations remotely, or

students at the other schools they apply to

having to defer their involvement in the

before choosing Drexel. “STAR Scholars was actually one of the

summer terms of this coming academic

deciding factors of going to Drexel because

year in order to participate in on-campus

of the money factor and also because of

research as part of phase 2 of Drexel’s

the one-on-one experience that you get

Research Ramp-Up Plan.

with the mentor,” says Andrea, a rising

But like a lot of opportunities Drexel has to offer students, the pandemic couldn’t

second-year majoring in public health. Once accepted to STAR, Patrick


stop this program from moving forward

Henderson, a rising second-year

one way or another.

biological sciences student with a planned


Drexel, we felt very strongly that our 2020

says the outreach to his prospective

STAR Scholars could and should be able

mentor felt extremely important. That

to participate in those activities,” says

was with Irwin Chaiken, PhD, professor

Jaya Mohan, director of Undergraduate

of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology in

Research and Enrichment Programs for

the College of Medicine — someone who

the Pennoni Honors College. “We know

doesn’t even usually teach undergraduate

the impact the STAR Scholars program

students, let alone first-year students.

“As long as research was continuing at

has on our students, like increasing their




“Writing that initial email felt like writing another essay,” Henderson says of

helping them clarify their academic and

that outreach. “You need to be able to sell

professional goals, and we knew we had to

yourself and show your interest.”

do everything in our power to provide that


career in disease-related biology research,

confidence in their own abilities and

experience to these students.” Three of this summer’s 101 STAR Scholars

Reaching out to her faculty mentor, Dornsife School of Public Health Assistant Professor Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, was also

from across disciplines spoke of their

nerve-wracking for Andrea, though she

experiences conducting research remotely

realized that getting over that hump could

under the tutelage of esteemed faculty

open up a world of possibilities.

mentors. They presented their findings


About one-third of first-year students

Pennoni’s STAR Scholars program the

program to the fall-winter or spring-


ThE DEcision

“I was just freaking out because of all the

during the annual STAR Scholars Summer

COVID-19 changes and stuff, but STAR has

Showcase, hosted virtually this year.

encouraged me to branch out,” Andrea says.


THE EXPERIENCE Though this summer has

THE RESULTS Both Patrick and Andrea’s projects

on information that’s not only relevant

undoubtedly been different in terms

focused more on remote literature

to my research project topic, but also

of the STAR Scholar experience,

review than hands-on experimen-

applicable to the real world,” Patrick

students like Samantha Seiden, a rising

tation, but were by no means less

adds about his research.

second-year environmental engineering

impactful. Henderson studied

student, feel very lucky to be a part of

DNA-based vaccines and how different

says Patrick, helped him learn skills like

it regardless. And, due to the nature

approaches could improve vaccines

adaptability and self-management – even

of her project, Samantha even had the

that target conditions, like HIV or

writing Post-It notes with daily goals.

opportunity to do a bit of it in person.

even SARS-CoV-2, the disease that

She worked with Franco Montalto,

This year’s STAR Scholars program,

Though he thought when applying

causes COVID-19. Andrea focused on

to the program that he’d be doing

PhD, a College of Engineering

the U.S. immigrant population, specif-

more in-person lab work this summer,

professor of environmental engineering

ically Hispanic immigrants and Asian

Patrick said he’s glad there’s a lot about

focusing on green infrastructure and

immigrants, though her project strives

the STAR Scholars program that

societal water needs, to study cooling

to encompass all regions of origin. She

remained unchanged by the pandemic,

centers — and specifically to build one

is now in the process of doing data

including working with his mentor and

for the community on a city block in

analysis and visualization, and hopes

co-mentor on the same deliverables.

the Hunting Park area of Philadelphia

to identify trends to inform their

in a way they could also remain socially

understanding about how heterog-

Research & Enrichment Programs

distant due to COVID-19.

enous factors amongst the immigrant

for doing their best to maintain the

population factor into health and

same structure and deliverables of the

health outcomes.

program during the pandemic,” he

“There’s this issue for people who don’t have air conditioning and need a place to cool down during the summer,” Samantha says. “So the goal for this project was to identify a community that’s really in need of these cooling centers and then try to implement something where they could still stay socially distant but get cool during the summer.” So, after doing research for much of the 10-week program, Samantha helped her research team in August implement their planned features of the cooling center, including areas for shading, pavement watering and

“I applaud the Undergraduate

“I'm not learning hard laboratory skills right now, but the life skills I’ve learned, like adaptability, networking and self-management, helped me make the most of this summer."

greenery. Though working remotely

All three of these scholars were eager to present their research at the Virtual STAR Scholars Summer Showcase on September 17, as well as learn more about what their peers were up to this summer. One thing Andrea said might be apparent from the showcase and is also important for future STAR students to keep in mind is that research as part of the program also does not necessarily have to fall in line with their declared major. “You’re not limited to what you’re studying, and STAR is a chance to explore your different interests or maybe just a field that you had no idea about before,” she says. Patrick agrees with this sentiment, saying that “STAR is a great opportunity to research, discover, explore, and experiment with what interests you.” He added that it can help Drexel students get to know the University’s research community. “Making strong connections with research mentors and faculty early on gets your name out into the industry ahead of time,” he says, “and can get your foot in the door for employment because someone sees potential in you.” “It’s really exciting to see this is what’s coming out of Drexel,” Samantha adds. “These are the cool new things that we’re researching and that you can get involved in as well.”

STAR Scholars at the Entrepreneurial Game Studio


said. “I’m not


learning hard laboratory skills

The STAR Scholars Program is more than a title or a

right now, but

resumé builder. It gives students opportunities to network,

the life skills I’ve learned, like adaptability, networking and self-management, helped me make the most of this summer.” For Samantha, she still feels like she’s getting

under Dr. Frank Lee at Drexel’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio (EGS).

Civil Dialog Civil Dialog hopes to reshape social media into a place for thoughtful conversation. Users can respond to Civil Dialog questions through Twitter and watch their response projected onto buildings for others to respond to. My work involved redesigning the projected and streamed user interface, researching and organizing topics and questions based on current events and community advice, and moderating the first event in early August.

EGS Programs

made some of this planning longer

Another part of Andrea’s experience

and more laborious, Samantha was

was “sitting in” on virtual meetings of

research in her field, and she’s also

excited to see the fruits of that labor

the ongoing Salud Urbana en América

sharpening important skills before

speakers, group discussions and game analysis. We also created a quality assurance analysis to

in the data collected and its effect on

Latina (SALURBAL) project out of

starting her co-op at PECO in the fall.

rethink EGS’s approach to a remote environment.

her final project.

the Dornsife School of Public Health’s

“We’re just trying to see: Could these systems really cool down the street and help people get outside a bit more

a good sense of what it’s like to do

grow as individuals, and benefit their community. For my STARScholar experience, I worked on three different projects

“I think this STAR project is good

Urban Health Collaborative, of which

practice for that and practice for

her mentor is an investigator.

putting yourself out there,” she says.

Game Analysis The final project was an independently driven critical review and analysis of a game called

“I just think this whole process has

NaissanceE by Limasse Five. It is an artistic exploration of brutalist design and the beauty

but still stay socially distant?” she

Urban Health Collaborative going

really taught me how to actually

found within isolation, all with an entirely silent narrative. I deconstructed NaissanceE from

says. “It’s definitely been tricky being

forward,” Andrea says.

apply the skills that I’ve learned in

the perspective of art history, game and design theory, and the effects of social isolation during

school to a job, and [operate] in a

COVID-19. The final draft of the analysis will be submitted to the 2021 Game Developers

professional setting.”

Conference (GDC) Game Narrative contest and other game research communities with the

behind a screen doing all this stuff, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

“I now hope to get involved with the

Every week, we organized and presented the EGS weekly body meetings, featuring guest

“This whole experience taught me to weed out the curiosities so I can focus

hopes of presenting it and inspiring other designers. 24



Honors student Maddie Pelchat aids Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in developing their climate action plan BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER


er research, Maddie hopes, will make her

“Udall requires a cohesive collection of about eight short

marketable for a consulting role in climate

essays ranging from career goals, to research and extracur-

mitigation. But the Honors student was not

riculars, so it forces you to really evaluate your dedication

always so confident in her career goals.

to the environment in every aspect of your life,” she says.

Pennoni Honors College, she says, has served as an

experience that has built upon itself. As a freshman, Maddie took an Honors course on dramatic

Maddie’s passion for the environment may not have been evident enough to garner the award the first time around but her persistence and dedication to improving her appli-

masterpieces, vastly different from her introductory

cation and her goals, paid off in year two. A few weeks into

engineering courses. Through the Honors Program, she

quarantine, Maddie received notice that she had received

was introduced to the Office of Undergraduate Research.

the Udall for the 2020-21 year.

She started working in Dr. Christopher Sales’s lab during her freshman year researching landfill leachate remediation using algae. Her research advisor, Dr. Sales, then

“My involvement in Pennoni Honors College has continually provided me with opportunities to grow.” “As an Honors student and former Aspire scholar who

nominated her for Pennoni’s Aspire program, designed to

participated in research and applied for fellowships,

provide curious and motivated undergraduates — some

Maddie is sort of the quintessential Pennoni student,” says

admittedly at a loss for clearly defined professional

Kelly Weissberger, associate director of Undergraduate

goals — with a small community of peers and guidance

Research & Enrichment Programs. “The staff have had

from faculty, staff, and alumni.

the pleasure of working with her for multiple years, and

“I was very anxious about my future career going into

it’s been inspiring to see her develop her interests, clarify

Aspire,” Maddie admits, “but that year helped me to slow

her professional goals, and find a unique niche for her

down and take the time to strategize my professional devel-

skills. We’re delighted that she was recognized by the Udall

opment and be more confident in seeking out mentorship.”

Foundation and excited to see how her career unfolds.”

Aspire led her to work with Pennoni’s fellowships advisors

The $7,000 scholarship will be used toward her Drexel

to apply for the Udall Scholarship, which awards sopho-

tuition, but with the scholarship comes participation in a

mores and juniors an orientation, innovative ideas, profes-

conference (over Zoom) of other Udall winners, a

sional advice, and job opportunities for those looking to go

professional network and future opportunities.

into leadership, public service, and commitment to issues

Her thesis, Maddie hopes will provide a framework

related to the environment or to Native American nations.

for other local governments to follow to produce their individual climate action plans.


adeleine Pelchat was seven months into

over video webinars, Maddie conferred online with several

COVID-19 hit. Through the Pennsylvania

Bellefonte residents, ironing out details to complete their

Local Government Climate Action

climate action plan and implement it. The framework of

Assistance Program, the BS/MS student in chemical and

the plan will serve as a basis for her thesis, which will also

environmental engineering had been finalizing a climate

include an analysis of software platforms that inventory

action plan for Bellefonte Borough — near State College

and forecast emissions based on community growth rate

— with the help of local government representatives and

and expected carbon intensity of future electricity grids.

knowledgeable and concerned residents.

She also evaluated the emissions reduction potential of the

But how does one complete her thesis doing

policies and programs Bellefonte’s Climate Change Task

community—engaged research when she could no longer

Force came up with, working those details into a first draft

visit the community?

of the plan and then presenting to the Environment and

Over Zoom!


Just as millions of others met in Zoom rooms and chatted

her community—engaged research when

Sustainability Committee.



Honors engineering student-turned Emmy Award-winning filmmaker unmutes Spain’s past BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER

Angeles garment factories. Bahar became Carracedo’s co-pro-

not be impunity for human rights crimes in the world. It

ducer, co-writer, and eventually, husband. After four years of

explores the ideas of forgetting and memory. How do we

work, Made in L.A. premiered on PBS’s prestigious POV series

deal with a legacy of violence and past crimes?”

and earned the couple their first Emmy. They then spent two

of Others is Pedro Almodóvar, world-renowned director

through hundreds of community and faith-based screenings,

and producer. Their film has won more than 40 interna-

culminating in a screening on Capitol Hill.

tional prizes including two 2020 Emmys, the Goya for

“To produce is to build a matrix,” Bahar wrote in an essay to

and shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature at the

production was like an epiphany: it helped to crystallize the

2019 Academy Awards. But beyond its success as a film,

relationship between engineering and film and to confirm

it has made an extraordinary impact in Spain, where it has

my choice of the latter. Both assemble disparate elements

been called “the most necessary documentary in 80 years”,

into structure. Both combine vision, critical thinking, and

seen by more than 1.5 million people, and contributed to a

technical skill to create that which is new.”

difficult conversation about the legacy of the dictatorship. accepted the Emmy (the statue is on its way!) from their

40-year dictatorship under General Francisco Franco and

Madrid home at 3 a.m. with dress clothes on top and

explores the horrific crimes that took place under his rule. The

pajamas on the bottom — the country erupted in positive

film gives voice — and memory — to the protagonists that

response. Spanish TV re-aired the documentary the next

Spain wished to ignore with the Pact of Forgetting, an amnesty

day, the Spanish prime minister retweeted about the film,

law passed in 1977 making it impossible to prosecute the

and a chain reaction ensued demonstrating how a film’s

human rights abuses of the era, in the hopes that “forgetting”

distribution can bring about change.

Young Spaniards are taught very little about this time in the kingdom’s history — but The Silence of Others, which


Bahar says, “started with a shadow that had never been local activist he and his fellow students had met, hoping they’d jump at the story. They didn’t.

documentary filmmaking. It was the support that the electrical and computer engineering major received

from the Pennoni Honors College. When he started in Drexel’s Honors Program in 1993,

Drexel’s DUTV, and in collaboration with its then-director George McCollough, Bahar made a 52-minute documentary to share the inequalities of this community with others. The

Bahar, the son of revered Drexel engineering professor

film was shown on Philadelphia’s public TV station WHYY,

Leon Bahar, found a sense of community from the

covered by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and helped draw

seminar-style classes, MacAlister Hall lounge, and

attention to the activists’ campaign to stop polluting facil-

encouragement of the staff and faculty. But he also found

ities from coming to their community. With Robert’s path

an advocate in Dave Jones, a film professor and later Dean

evolving, Dave Jones and then-Dean of Pennoni Honors

of Pennoni Honors College (Professor Jones passed away

College, Dr. Mark Greenberg, along with the then-Program

in 2018). It was through Jones’s mentorship that Bahar

Director of Film & Video Program Yvonne Leach, convinced

realized he was interested in more than math and science.

the co-op office that this dedicated engineering student

The Swarthmore native was passionately drawn to film in

should be permitted to do his third and final co-op with local

its potential to address issues of human injustice.

independent filmmakers.

In an Honors colloquium exploring how society interacts


So Bahar set out to tell it himself. With support from

Bahar went on to apply to the highly competitive

with environmental issues, then-sociology Professor

Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of

Elizabeth Petras took Bahar and his classmates on a field

Southern California, receiving a much-coveted Jacob K.

trip to the West End of Chester, an African American

Javits Fellowship. Fresh out of grad school, he then met

neighborhood then bearing all of the waste facilities –

and collaborated with young Spanish-born filmmaker,

and pollution — for Delaware County. He was doing an

Almudena Carracedo, who was working on a film titled

internship at KYW and mentioned to them the work of a

Made in L.A., about female immigrants working in Los

After the Emmy wins — when Bahar and his wife

Spain to make The Silence of Others, which portrays Spain’s

would allow the country to build a democratic future.

first film Laid to Waste that lured Robert Bahar into

Best Feature Documentary (Spain’s Academy Award),

get into USC’s film program. “This simple description of film

In 2012, Bahar and Carracedo temporarily re-located to

t wasn’t the trash-processing facilities featured in his

Bahar and Carracedo’s executive producer for The Silence

years on the road using the film to discuss immigration reform

Together, Bahar and his wife’s films are not just about cinematography or production, but about the story a film can tell, the greater impact it can produce and the truths it can illuminate. The Pennoni Honors College in partnership with the

explored,” was seven years in the making. Edited painstak-

Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will host a

ingly from 450 hours of footage to a compact 1 hour, 36

screening of Bahar’s The Silence of Others January 15, 2021

minutes, the film follows a few of the hundreds involved

from 3-5 pm over Zoom, followed by a Q&A. The event

in a complex lawsuit (filed in Argentina because Spanish

will not only highlight Spain’s transition from dicta-

courts refused to admit it) seeking justice for crimes against

torship to democracy but also illustrate to Drexel students

humanity: stolen babies, forced disappearances, tortures,

the need for reckoning with the legacies of genocide in

imprisonments and murders.

America’s own past and with the crimes that people in

“This is a film that is not just about impunity of crimes in

power would prefer to see forgotten.

Spain,” Bahar says. “It’s a film about the fact there should

To join Robert Bahar and Pennoni Honors College for a screening of

The Silence of Others, go to: https://bit.ly/-silence-others (left) The statues featured in The Silence of Others, on a mountaintop in the Valley of Jerte, by sculptor Francisco Cedenilla. Photo by Almudena Carracedo. (right) The Silence of Others Directors Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar. Photo by Álvaro Minguito




his co-op was a door, an opportunity, just as her

engineering background to help the environment. So if

namics had been. Under the tutelage of Dr. Irina

we have an oil spill, what’s the fastest, cheapest way to

Ciobanescu-Husanu in Drexel’s Engineering

clean up the mess?”

Technology Department, she designed and constructed

Barry Goldwater Scholarship, and while she ultimately


did not receive it, going through the process was a great

She presented her work at that year’s STAR Summer her poster were random CEOs of companies in Philadelphia. And they were impressed with her research project — a project Sarah confesses, she wasn’t enthusiastic about.

But Sarah didn’t ignore the opportunities the project opened up to her. She was asked to present her apparatus at two other symposiums. Her STAR mentor began using it in the classroom to teach the subject matter, and she was published in the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Journal. And then she pivoted her research interests and found


shares her Drexel narrative — her

spring and summer to blowing

“miracle story,” she calls it — and it

things up — technically

always starts with her participation in

speaking. As a co-op in

Pennoni’s STAR Scholars Program.

and Test Engineering Department in

research or not,’ I tell high

Moorestown, New Jersey, the College

schoolers, ‘you learn about what you

of Engineering student spent long

want to do and where you want to

hours testing defense weapon and

go … and you learn so much about

radar equipment for the U.S. Navy.

yourself,’” Sarah says.

Lockheed Martin’s Systems Integration

With two professors for parents, Sarah was raised in

I need to figure out what to do between January and my

to” attitude, but she made it a priority to connect with

long-term goals,” Sarah says. “Applying for Goldwater helps

other women and minority students to impart those same

you learn a lot about what you actually want — in detail.”

to advance the collective good, and she brings the same

underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines.

energy to her efforts to build community for women and

“It is nice to see people with similar backgrounds as me,”

minority students in STEM, finding unexpected ways to

Last year, Sarah did a study abroad program in Germany “As a student who is trying to graduate with as few loans as possible, when I see anything that says, ‘free money,’ I hone

engineering ’21, an interesting career

it was “based on a project that I

option, she’s learned her skillset lies

wasn’t necessarily passionate about

had planned on being down under

in nurturing — minoring in green

but it opened up so many other

working in research and development

energy and sustainability, creating a

doors for me.”

for a solar panel manufacturer, but

in on that.” Which is how she came to meet with Leah Gates,

when that fell through, she quickly

color in STEM, and serving as a CoE

Sarah through — first through budget

pivoted to Plan B, which is how she

volunteer at events.

cuts that slashed the grant money

ended up as an essential employee

she’d earned for a co-op in Australia

working for Lockheed Martin on the

and then the COVID crisis. She

U.S. Navy’s defense program.

campus presentations that Sarah

innovative research questions that are rooted in her desire

which is part of a national effort to increase the number of

and received a scholarship through LSAMP.

miracle — Sarah admits — because

That’s the mantra that carried

and empathy,” says Gates, “She pursues interesting,

Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP),

out what they want to do and how to get there.”

provided Sarah, BS mechanical

“Sarah is such a rare combination of creativity, curiosity,

Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, and the

and build people up. I like helping younger students figure

Her experience with STAR was a

It is at those open houses and


“‘Whether you think you like

“I’m basically done by January 2021, so I’m at a point where

Reading, PA on a “you can do whatever you put your mind

the loyal and supportive student says, “but also to reach out

While the position definitely

community for women and people of


other opportunities to dedicate her focus.

beliefs. She joined Drexel’s chapters of Society of Women

arah Andrieux devoted her

learning experience.

Showcase — not realizing that a few of those who approached

“I realized, ‘I think I like research, but I wasn’t passionate


She spent last year crafting an application for the

an apparatus that visually demonstrated the First Law of

about the project I was working on.’”


“My long-term life goals and passions are to use my

STAR research three years ago in thermody-

bring people together and create a sense of belonging.” In the little down time she had over the last few months, Sarah found relief in the kitchen, trying to keep up with a family full of chefs and attempting to vegan-ize recipes. The intramural volleyball player kept active by exercising at home and she kept her mind active by expanding her professional network. “That’s hard to do from home — to put yourself out there

senior associate director of Pennoni’s Undergraduate Research

professionally,” she says, “It’s hard to say ‘I see what you’re

and Enrichment Programs.

doing. I like what you’re doing. Can I have a job?’ But doors

She told Leah her plan — “and my side paths if anything

usually aren’t held open for you. You have to fight for want

veers off my main plan” — which Sarah has had mapped out

you aspire to achieve, and sometimes that means to be a

for some time now: Work in the industry for at least a year,

little vulnerable. Networking virtually is challenging, but like

and then return to academia to pursue a PhD in engineering.

all challenges, there’s always something to learn in the end.

This blueprint will allow her to connect real-world experience

That’s the only way to grow. Take chances, make mistakes,

with her studies and possibly start her own research company

learn from your mistakes, continually self-improve, and

in the industry – preferably in green technology.

believe that you can achieve the impossible.”


Alumni News

Brandon Bachert, biomedical engineering ’09, joined the department of diagnostic imaging as a radiologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Bachert is an assistant professor on the academic track. He is a member of the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society, Pennsylvania Radiological Society, Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound, Radiological Society of North America, and the American Roentgen Ray Society. He has also been published in several peer reviewed journals and presented at multiple case report competitions. Dr. Justin Lathia, biomedical engineering ’03, and his team were awarded a $10.4 million, 5-year Program Project Grant from the National Cancer Institute (P01 CA245705, Co-led by Jill Barnholtz-Sloan of Case Western Reserve University) studying sex differences in malignant brain tumors. Dr. Lathia was also recent promoted to full professor at the Cleveland Clinic and named the holder of the Reza Khatib MD Professor at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Venkat Kavuri, biological sciences ’12, recently joined the Community Care Network, Inc. team of physicians as an orthopedic spine surgeon in Muster, IN. He is on staff at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, IN.  Priyanka Chugh, biological sciences ’10, joined the Gastroenterology Center of Excellence, part of the Trinity Health of New England Medical Group, in Naugatuck, CT. Dr. Chugh is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology. Her research and clinical interests include complex liver diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, colon cancer screening, peptic ulcer disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease. She also has a clinical interest in obesity and nutrition in overall health and will be certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine in 2021.

Brent Yates, finance and international business ’01, MBA ‘12, was recently promoted to senior manager of CRM at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Kevin Lynch, computer science ’08, became principal software engineer at Squarespace, an online platform that gives users the ability to create their own websites.studying sex differences in malignant brain tumors. Prerak Shah, Esq., biologicals sciences ’07, became the first assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Northern District of Texas, according to a LinkedIn update.

Katie Reilly, music industry ’11, is a campaign director at UltraViolet, where she started in December 2019 to focus on making politics more accessible to women and people of color. Reilly is part of a group of women’s rights and social justice organizations that’s working to combat racism, sexism, and the spread of disinformation in the 2020 election. Reilly manages the development and design of a media style guide designed to help journalists and social networks combat disinformation, racism, and sexism in political media coverage. The guide was featured on the front page of The Washington Post and covered by The Boston Globe, Good Morning America, ABC News, The New York Times, and AP News. v

In Memoriam Alden Hoke, civil engineering ’22, passed away in May of an unexpected pulmonary embolism, which was the result of a rare genetic disorder. The Honors student was co-oping at Jacobs Engineering in Philadelphia. Alden previously served as a Drexel Fellowships Ambassador in 2019-20 and was the recipient of the Freeman-Asia Award to study in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University in 2018. A gofundme scholarship in his name (bit.ly/alden-hoke) has been created to honor Alden’s legacy and passion for learning and intellectual curiosity.


Forbes 30 Under 30


ourtney Sabo, graphic design ’15, and her business partner Jack Forbes were named Forbes 30 Under 30 Honorees. Sabo and Forbes are the co-founders of Kopa, a long-term rental platform for finding roommates and apartments. Kopa also provides a variety of guest, property, and booking management tools to property homeowners and managers. A Y Combinator alum, the company has $1 million in venture capital seed funding and has 20,000 rental units across dozens of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, New York, LA, Philadelphia and Chicago. 

Washington Post article: bit.ly/biden-VP-pick

Spread the News! Please send your alumni announcements to pennoni@drexel.edu and let us know what you’ve been up to. Include your name, major, graduation year, and share with us your career stories, promotions, marriages, births, etc.



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