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Students honored, alumni speak at LHU Communication Department’s majors meeting

Comm Alumni Panel

The Lock Haven University Communication Department held its majors meeting for the spring semester on Thursday, April 12. Six students were recognized for their service to the department and a panel of four alumni shared experiences and advice with attendees.

Among the students honored were senior Jessica Tressa. As part of her independent study, Tressa played a key role in expanding the LHU Public Relations Club’s social media presence. Dr. Karen Kline, communication and philosophy chair, described Tressa’s social media initiatives as “wildly successful.”

Tressa is also responsible for re-establishing Lock Haven University’s Circle K program. Circle K is a sponsored program of Kiwanis International that facilitates student participation in community service.

“She came into my office her freshman year when she was uncorrupted,” Dr. Matt Girton, communication professor, jokingly said. “And she said, ‘I’d like to join Lock Haven University’s Circle K program.’ I said you’re about eight years too late. She said, ‘That’s OK. I’m going to start it up again.’”

“When you find somebody like that, that’s usually a special student,” Girton added.

Tressa also served as one of the leaders of the department’s student-mentor program in which upper-class students are paired with first-year students to ease the underclassman’s transition to the university. Also honored for their student mentorship were seniors Brandon Clements and Meredith Brown, and juniors Sara Aderhold and Lisa Hallock.

Junior Michael Lynch was also honored for his service as director of the university’s communications lab.

Following the student recognitions, four alumni held an hour-long discussion with attendees, advising students on what they can expect when they go out into the workforce and providing them with tips on how they can be successful upon graduating.

Erin Palermo ’99, is senior producer for the weekday news program Daybreak, which airs on WHTM ABC 27 out of Harrisburg.

Palermo has worked with WHTM for 18 years. She started out as a production assistant running studio cameras, and eventually began writing news stories, which culminated in her promotion to producer. She talked to students about how the resources at LHU helped prepare her for professional success.

“It’s so great that LHU has a TV station, a radio station, and a newspaper that you can be a part of. That would be my advice, to just do as much as you can,” Palermo said.

Brandie Kessler ’05, is a reporter with the York Daily Record. She talked about her many experiences as a reporter, including stints covering local news, city council meetings, and working the crime beat. She talked about the emotional trauma of covering difficult stories like the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, but also shared a lighthearted story to illustrate the importance of curiosity for anyone interested in being a journalist.

“I’ve worked with reporters who have made amazing, fantastic journalism talking about poop,” Kessler said. “There’s a county fair and we all want to know what happens to all that poop from the animals. That’s an interesting story. Maybe not everyone would think that’s an interesting story, but a lot of our readers did, so you need to be curious and ask questions. A lot of the time if you have questions a lot of other people want to know the answer to those questions too.”

Kessler also told students to find ways to make good use of the technology they have access to that was not around when she was a student.

“I don’t want to be an ageist. I feel like all of you could teach me a whole lot,” Kessler said. “You are so much ahead of the curve. You have so much at your fingertips. Recognize that when you leave here you’re going to be so much smarter than some of the managers that are going to be hiring you. Figure out how to take those tools and make them valuable to the place that you want to work.”

John Vitale ’13, is the assistant director of engagement for the Lock Haven University Foundation. He stressed the importance for students to be proactive learners and to maximize their time at LHU.

 “Don’t just use your classes as a gateway to learn,” Vitale said. “Seek learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Don’t just wait for them to come to you. Utilize your peers, extra-curricular activities, internships, externships, or maybe even get a part time job. There are a lot of resources out there. You just have to take the time to go out and find them and then use them to your advantage.”

Vitale also tried to alleviate some of the stress students expressed over their perceived fear of job hunting and interviewing upon graduating. “Get the thought out of your mind that you have to be perfect,” Vitale said.  “You just have to be somebody who is willing to be part of a team, willing to embrace a company’s culture, be a part of it and show them that your biggest goal is to make what they do just a little bit better.”

Sam Hendershot ’15, is a client success representative and real estate sales representative at the Centre Daily Times. Hendershot talked about the importance of having job experience upon graduation.

“Whenever we’re looking at resumes and someone has no job experience we’re hesitant to hire them,” Hendershot said. “You say you don’t have time, but you have more time than you think. (Working) will put a little extra cash in your pocket and it’s a great learning experience too.”

For more information on Kiwanis International’s Circle K program, visit

For more information on Lock Haven University, visit, email, or call 570-484-2011.

For more information on LHU’s communication department, visit

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Lock Haven University is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.                        

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