Each month, the MU Alumni Relations team will add a brief Postcard Profile of an interesting graduate of Misericordia University. The team will be speaking with alumni from all generations to share the latest news about Misericordia and hear what's going on in the lives of our alumni. For more information, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s within every person to live the life that they want to live and to help create change.” 2009 communications alumna Rae Decker Baldino is currently the Director of Communications and Development at United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Pennsylvania where she is creating change through serving those who do not have a voice, as well as those who need help finding their voice.
It is clear that the charism of service had quite an impact on Rae during her time at Misericordia. Rae feels that she was able to begin working with non-profits because Misericordia’s communications program gave her a taste of everything in the field. She felt that no matter what situation could arise, she had the skills to adapt and learn on the fly thanks to the amazing program and faculty at Misericordia.
One thing that Rae learned at Misericordia that she would love to share with others is: “…so what if you fail or you make a mistake…some of those [challenges] were the best learning experiences of my life.” She continues to say that you always need to get back up and keep trying, because taking those steps to try again defines who you are, your work ethic, and your ability.
Rae has had quite a life journey since she graduated from Misericordia 10 years ago, yet the charisms and lessons that she learned while at Misericordia have remained close to her heart. “To be able to…give back the gifts that I have been given, and to help other people be that change that they want to see and do good and put good in the world…you can’t put a price tag on that.”
“To become the best version of yourself, you have to stay open to every opportunity that’s here, and don’t say: I don’t have time. You’ll never have time. Make a little time- stretch;” the wise words of 1969 alumna Dr. Agnes Toloczko Cardoni to current Misericordia students.
Misericordia might have been a little different 50 years ago when Agnes attended this institution, but the experiences that students walk away with when they become alumni still remain the same. Celebrating her 50th reunion this year, Agnes exclaims that you are at Misericordia to not only learn, but to become yourself.
Agnes learned long ago that she is an introvert at heart; however, being back on campus for Alumni Weekend to celebrate her 50th reunion with her classmates, Agnes quickly transformed into an extrovert as she had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and share fond memories. Agnes shared some exciting news that recently, she retired from 50 years of teaching (although she could never truly retire as she continues to teach online).
According to Agnes, when you compare the few majors that were offered to women back in 1969 to what is offered today- “it’s breathtaking.” Her final advice to alumni? Come back often; come back in awe; stay in touch with other alumni, and never forget Misericordia.
A friendship for a lifetime. June marks National Best Friends Day, and 2017 Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) alumnae Maria Cantoran and Abbey McCann exemplify the true meaning of friendship. They are proof of the amazing bonds that can continue beyond the arch.
Maria was a transfer student when she met Abbey in class, but the two just clicked; so much so that Maria and Abbey now work together at New Story, a special needs school in Wyoming, and Helping Hands, an outpatient clinic in Kingston.
What is their secret for a great friendship and solid careers? They both agree how important it is to have someone by your side through the difficult times- both in your profession and outside of it. They believe that they have personalities that balance each other out. When one is going through something, the other is there for support.
Misericordia gave Maria and Abbey the knowledge to be successful in their careers and an amazing friendship. They felt prepared and confident to walk through the arch and begin their work as an SLP thanks to the classes, clinics, and hands-on experience that their program provided. Abbey boasts that Misericordia allows you to do anything that you set your mind to and gives you the tools to do just that. Misericordia is more than a school; it is a home where classmates become friends and friends become family.
They say that a dream is a wish your heart makes. It is not every day that you hear about a health care management major dreaming of working at Disney World. In fact, 2019 alumna Stephanie Schultz had not even thought about working at Disney World when she began her journey at Misericordia, yet this recent graduate will be moving to Florida at the end of July.
Misericordia is more than the major you study. It is also about the experiences you have on campus that make an impact on your life. Steph believes that her work with campus ministry on the spring break trips truly opened her eyes and changed her path for the better. It made working for a company that makes dreams come true every day seem like the next step. Steph also admits that she never could have made it through the interview process without her influential Misericordia professors such as Professor Caruso.
Steph will begin her internship through the Disney College Program in August. If you plan to take a trip to Disney World within those next six months, you will find Steph in quick serve food and beverage (but you will have to stay in touch to find out exactly where she is assigned). The possibilities are endless for this recent spring 2019 grad. Steph’s journey truly goes to show the power of wishes, dreams, hard work, and dedication.
Who doesn't love a good throwback? 2017 communications alumnus Matt Scanlon is currently working for Viacom where he and his team focus on Nickelodeon content. Matt has the opportunity to work on social media projects that throw it back to television moments that were a large part of his childhood. Most notably, Matt has been creating content for Nickelodeon's On This Day Facebook page.
It may seem surreal for someone to graduate from a relatively small university in Northeast Pennsylvania, and subsequently land a job with a large company like Nickelodeon, but Matt credits Misericordia and its great location for his success. Pursuing his communications degree in Dallas, PA allowed Matt the opportunity for countless local and valuable internships. For example, during his time at MU, Matt interned with WBRE, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Matt works as a part of the Viacom Digital Studios team. He believes that his love of collaboration and teamwork comes from his tight-knit group in the communications department at MU. Every day Matt has the opportunity to collaborate with his team- most of who grew up watching the same Nickelodeon shows. Matt welcomes the Misericordia community to check out their videos on Nickelodeon's Facebook and YouTube pages.
It is a typical night in the Poplawski household- 1998 alumnus Dr. Kevin Poplawski and his wife, Elizabeth, are putting their daughters, Emily and Hailey, to bed, and the girls want to hear their favorite bedtime story. "Eli's Magic Moment!" they cheer. Could you blame them? Since this book was published on November 26, 2017, it has sold about 800 copies; not to mention, the author is Emily and Hailey's hero- their dad.
How does a doctor of physical therapy, who has spent 20 years in Orthopedics/Sports Medicine, find himself as the author of a popular children's book? Kevin will tell you that "you never know where your connections will take you." Night after night, Kevin would make up fun stories to tell his first born, Emily. However, there was one story in particular that she really took a liking to, and Kevin started writing it down. When Kevin struggled to find a publisher for his book, he turned to his mentor from Misericordia, Jeanne Moran. The two worked closely together to help find Kevin an illustrator and get him on the right path to make his book successful.
Kevin did not stop there. He has already donated over 100 copies of his book to hospitals, libraries, and schools. His book teaches important lessons in teamwork and mentorship, and Kevin believes these themes come from his time at Misericordia. Kevin learned all about teamwork on the soccer field, and he found a wonderful mentor in Jeanne Moran and her husband, Dr. Mike Moran '07. We are all looking forward to the sequel that is already in the works, but in the meantime, Kevin's daughters, Emily and Hailey, are happy sharing the story of Eli with all the young readers out there.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and 2007 OT alumna Bethany McCullough Bondura is a strong supporter of this month of awareness. Bethany got her job in the Lehigh Valley after graduating from College Misericordia, and she has been working at the Lehigh Valley Health Network as an occupational therapist for the past 11 years. She saw breast cancer patients with extreme swelling, due to lymph node removal or trauma from surgery, but realized that no one in her unit was certified to help those individuals. Bethany knew that it would be a lengthy process to get certified in lymphedema therapy, but she was extremely passionate about helping these breast cancer patients as well as others who have lymphedema.
After taking online classes and several weeks of hands-on education, Bethany became a certified lymphedema therapist, and she now works strictly with lymphedema patients. She educates the patients, many of those who had breast cancer, about exercises that support the compromised quadrant(s) of the body affected by the lymph node removal or trauma. Bethany develops a treatment plan, including bandaging and massage treatment, that she works through with her patients, and when their swelling has gone down enough, she measures her patients for compression garments so they can return to a more comfortable lifestyle.
Bethany was a part of the last graduating class from College Misericordia. She feels blessed that she had such great professors and classmates throughout her journey. The smaller class sizes allowed Bethany to seek out her niche and her passion in the OT field – this includes Bethany making the decision to pursue a minor in psychology as well as her geriatrics certificate at Misericordia. She strongly believes that Misericordia impressed upon her a sense of community and how to best serve those around her. Every day she sees how her job is both physically and emotionally taxing on her patients, and she is able to take the knowledge, skills, and experiences that she learned while at Misericordia to make a difference in their lives.
From Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, PA to Misericordia University to Paris, France, recent alumnae Leah Santucci ’16 and Emily Halbing ’15 have quite an interesting story. It was not until their years at Misericordia that they crossed paths. English is what brought them together, both working in the Writing Center and on Instress, but English was ironically not their sole focus at MU.
Leah majored in Nursing and minored in English while Emily chose to double major in Psychology and English. Leah now works in Endoscopy at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and Emily teaches children science, math, and English in South Korea.
How did these two find themselves together in Paris? Leah and Emily were selected to present at the XVIII International Hemingway Conference held in Paris, France from July 22-28, 2018. Misericordia was well represented at this conference with not only these two remarkable alumnae presenting, but also current MU students as well as faculty and staff.
Leah and Emily were a part of the largest turnout that the Ernest Hemingway Foundation & Society has ever seen at a conference, with over 500 individuals in attendance. The two alumnae not only had the opportunity to present at such a prestigious and well-attended conference, but they also took full advantage of everything that Paris, France had to offer- including the Eiffel Tower where the conference poster that Leah designed was displayed to all of Paris.
There is still plenty in store for these two international travelers, but they will always have a home in Dallas, PA.
PT alumnus, Dr. Charles Stevens, III '10, '13, has put "outpatient therapy on wheels" with his company, Mobile Therapy Services. Charles and his team are currently serving 30-40 active patients in Luzerne and Lackawanna County. Mobile Therapy Services is the only company in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area doing this type of outpatient house-call therapy service. His company has assembled a top-notch team and specializes in Geriatrics, MS/PD, and other neurologic diseases.
He knew that fellow Misericordia alumnae could bring the talent and skills needed to give his patients the best experience possible. Lori Recek Cardinale '95 and Lori Wasilewski Pecuch '98, are graduates of Misericordia's Occupational Therapy program, and are part of the Mobile Therapy Services team.
Charles accredits the guidance of the Physical Therapy department at Misericordia for pushing him to always strive for excellent care. Mobile Therapy Services' Facebook page showcases countless patient testimonials encompassing an overwhelming commonality - an overall improvement of their quality of life thanks to Dr. Charles Stevens, III and his team. He looks back with gratitude and pride at the rigorous program and mentorship that he received during his years at Misericordia.
She moved her tassel from left to right on Saturday, May 12th, and now the question is Montana or Miss Pennsylvania?
When 2018 biology alumna, Becky Zaneski (currently Miss Pocono), began her journey at Misericordia University in 2014, she had no issues diving into MU’s charism of service. She has been living with the charism of service in her heart her whole life.
When she is not serving others, she is preparing to compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania. This month, Becky will compete for the coveted title in Pittsburgh. Since the young age of four thanks to Becky’s mother, Miss Pennsylvania ’91, she has been heavily immersed in the Miss America Organization.
Her platform for Miss Pennsylvania #builtonservice reflects her love for serving others – choosing MU strengthened her desire to help others. “Misericordia was the perfect place for me”, said Becky.
During her time at MU, she was a part of the Mercy Leaders’ Program for three years, and completed over 700 hours of service. As a member of campus ministry, Becky coordinated the “Kids on Campus” program- where she and a group of students would babysit the children of the mothers in MU’s Women with Children Program. When she had the opportunity for breaks throughout her four years at MU, she instead decided to take advantage of the service trip opportunities. She also founded the club, Operation Smile, at MU after hearing about the global organization founded by alumna, Kathleen McGee ’67.
The question still remains – Miss Pennsylvania or Montana?
Becky already has more service planned for her future if she is not crowned Miss PA. In September, she will move to Montana to work at the Richland County Boys and Girls Club with AmeriCorps. Continuing her path of service, she will be focusing on community engagement, enrichment, and integration.
The entire Misericordia community and beyond will be cheering Becky on as she competes for the title of Miss PA this month, and no matter what the future has in store for this alumna who is #builtonservice, she will transform lives and communities with the charisms of the Sisters of Mercy and Misericordia in her heart.
The Florida sun was calling to 2012 OT alumna Stephanie May after graduating from Misericordia. Stephanie now resides in the Tampa Bay area, and if you knew her when she was a cheerleader at MU, you would not be surprised by where life has taken her. Stephanie now works as an occupational therapist in an outpatient center specializing in the treatment of hands. She has also returned to cheerleading after stepping away from the sport for 5 years after graduating from MU.
Stephanie took the plunge and auditioned for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders - landing a spot on the team. Her experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization has reached far beyond cheerleading and dancing. Stephanie has had the opportunity to be an ambassador for the organization as well as a part of its community outreach. Stephanie attributes her love for wanting to get involved in the community to the volunteer opportunities that she participated in at MU. She feels that it has a large part to do with the way that MU shapes its students – to be those who love giving back, have a good heart, and have a great outlook on life.
Bringing everything full circle, Stephanie now takes on her own fieldwork students. She truly appreciates the education that MU gave her – noting, in particular, the comprehensive curriculum and the professionalism of the program. Stephanie and some of her fellow alumnae also get together every year that they can to support the Misericordia Cheerleaders at Nationals in Florida. It is great knowing that there is room in Stephanie’s heart to be both a Buccaneer and a Cougar for life.
From playoff game-winning goals to working on Wall Street, ’14 alumnus Nick Santillo never forgets his undergrad roots at MU. Nick has put his accounting degree to good use in Manhattan, where he works as an auditor for a public accounting firm. He spends most of his Monday through Fridays bouncing around the ‘Big Apple’ from the Freedom Tower to Park Ave.
In his down time, Nick stays close with his fellow men’s lacrosse alumni, the largest single class of men’s lacrosse players in MU history. Coach James Ricardo remembers the freshman days for Nick and the team very well. “Their group came in and worked out hard together, trained together, and wanted to be the guys that got us to the next level”, and that’s exactly what they did. In Nick’s sophomore year, the team had their best season ever. In his junior year, Nick took it a step further when he scored the game winning goal in double overtime, which propelled the team to their first ever conference championship.
Nick is enjoying his professional career and life after graduation, but MU is never far from his mind. “ I’m looking forward to Homecoming and the alumni lacrosse game. We were just like a family, and we’re all still very close.” Join Nick, the men’s alumni lacrosse team, and the Class of 2014 at this year’s homecoming, Saturday October 1.
Young, scrappy, and free, Misericordia’s own Jeff Kelly is taking MU Theater to an entirely new level. Jeff, a ’12 ’14 alumnus, has been part of the Misericordia entertainment scene since he was only twelve years old. He began as a volunteer for Under the Stars, an annual MU summer concert series, and is now the Manager of Cultural and Special Events.
In the spirit of service, Jeff uses his passion for the arts in his role as the Theater Director at MU. Jeff recently traveled to NYC where he had the opportunity to attend a “Meet the Artist” master class with creator and star of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. What was it like to learn from the hottest name on Broadway? “Inspiring” said Jeff. “Lin is such a down to earth person, he embodies the ideal artist. He is in the business because of his passion for the Arts, and he was a teacher first; he is in it for the youth of our society.” The same can be said of Jeff, as he too works with theater students at Dallas High School and the Performing Arts Academy, in addition to his work with Misericordia students.
As for the Kelly Family and theater, you could say it’s in the genes. After some time out of the limelight, Jeff recently took up a role in "Midlife the Crisis Musical" with his sister and fellow ’04 alumna Angela Kelly, and ’04 alumnus Harry Blaine McKeown, director of both "Midlife the Crisis Musical" and theater productions at Dallas High School.
There’s no telling where Jeff’s talent will lead to, and we are certainly looking forward to it! As for what’s next, Jeff said he is looking forward to “flourishing and growing a strong theater arts program.” That’s a wrap!
Changing the world starts at home, and for 2012 OT alumna Meghan Franz Koziel, that’s every time she sees The Arch. “From my very first day on campus as a freshman, I remember describing the campus as a happy bubble.” After a magical graduation week filled with photo shoots and balloon releases, Meghan embraced the cherished charisms she learned while at MU and brought her gifts out into the world. “I was able to carry that drive and love for humanity to create a foundation known as Gifts for Guyana,” where gifts were collected and presented to the young boys at St. John Bosco orphanage. Meghan says that her days at MU were the best days of her life, filled with love and encouragement from everyone around her. “From being an orientation leader, then coordinator for many summers with my Miseri Mommy, the world famous Darcy, to diving more into my faith with Father Don and the amazing campus ministry staff, my college experience was filled with so many amazing memories!” Meghan called on her MU family last October when she was faced with a breast cancer diagnosis at only 26 years old. She says, “I truly do not think I would be able to see the positive sides of the situation if I didn’t have my experiences of being a part of the MU family.” She also credits the love and support learned here at home has helped her through some difficult moments. “The experiences that I had in college are why I am the positive, outgoing, and world changing superhero that I strive to be on the daily!”
As for that Mercy, Service, Justice, and Hospitality? Meghan is already right back to work helping others. “My hope is to save a life through early detection, and forever make girls going through chemo feel beautiful. It is important to always stay positive and true to yourself, because it’s that inside sparkle that makes someone truly beautiful."
The future is looking bright for ’13 English Alumna Grace Clancy Riker! After earning her Bachelor’s in English from MU, she obtained a Master’s from Queen’s University in Northern Ireland. She currently lives in New York City. Grace has always had a passion for theatre and the performing arts, and most recently auditioned amongst 700 other women for the role of Tracy Turnblad in NBCs Hairspray Live. She fondly remembers her days on campus in Lemmond Theatre while working on various shows and Beyond Harmony rehearsals. Grace is very grateful for her foundation at MU, and thanks all of her English professors that “pushed me very hard to prepare me for the real world” as well as “the Field Hockey teams and Coach Stahovic for their structure and support.” Grace continues to exhibit our charism of service, and is establishing a Brain Aneurysm support group in NYC through the Joe Niekro Foundation. She is also organizing volunteers for "A Cerebral Affair", a gala held to raise awareness and to find early detection of Brain Aneurysms and AVMs.
Beth Guarnieri ’09 communications Alumna hits the big screen April 27th in the film “Ticking Hearts”. The movie will premiere at Regent University, where Beth is currently pursuing her MFA in Acting. Beth is no stranger to the limelight. As a student, she co-founded the first television show at Misericordia (Cougar Cast) and was the captain of the Cheerleading squad. She is also 1 of 5 sisters that have attended MU. The Guarnieri Dynasty sisters, Katie, Marianne, Bridget, Maggie share a unique bond, in that they are all MU alumnae. “One thing I love is that we can all call Misericordia home at some point in our lives and even though we are spread over 10 years, to have that shared experience forever is something that has brought us even closer and I will always cherish,” she said. Although Beth is constantly on-the-go, she often thinks of a special place here on campus. There is a bench in honor of her grandmother that overlooks McHale Beach… and that to her is “home”.
Family and finance are perfectly paired in the life of ’12 Business Alumnus Max Weintraub. After graduating with his MBA in 2013, he joined Weintraub Financial Services, the business founded by his father Jay, nearly 40 years ago. For Max, the family business is more than just a career, “I get that feeling of fulfillment, that I’m helping people.” He is happy to work with other recent graduates on building a strong investment portfolio—which Max says is as easy as starting with $10 a month. He credits the support of Men’s Baseball Coach Pete Egbert with his decision to come to Misericordia; an experience that resulted in a successfulinternship, and ultimately earning a seat at Weintraub Financial Services.
By day, she’s the Youth Minister at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Moscow, PA. In her spare time, she’s a world traveler with a passion for serving those in need. Shannon Kowalski is an alumna from the class of 2012. As a student, she traveled with Campus Ministry to Jamaica and Peru on service trips, as well as a Habitat for Humanity trip and multiple alternative spring breaks. She has been to two World Youth Day events, one in Spain, the other in Brazil, and has seen both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis in person. Shannon credits her participation in MU Campus Ministry as the catalyst to her altruistic wanderlust. In 2016, she plans to travel to Guatemala on a service trip, and to Poland for her third World Youth Day.
From the MU studio to the sets of “Creed” and “Sully”, Matt Grant ’12 has covered a lot of ground in his first few years as a young alumnus. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, Matt headed to Philadelphia and began working as a freelance production assistant on various television and movie sets. Matt credits some of his success to picking up cues from his mentors along the way, “I got a feel of how they got to where they were going.” He also credits the real world opportunities with the Communications Department, including “Cougar Cast” and “You Said It” for giving him the drive to get the job done. We are very excited for Matt’s success, and look forward to his success in 2016!