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Meet Our Newest Alumni:
The Class of 2011's Stellar Students

The commencement ceremony on May 7 brought the class of 2011 together for the last time. The largest graduating class ever, the 2011 alums show all the range of talents, accomplishments, and dreams that one could hope for. Here are just a few of our new alumni.

Profiles (except his own) by Ryan LaLiberty '11
Photographs by Will Wrobel '11

Brin Adams, BM

Concord, NH

Brin Adams photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– music education option, with a specialty in piano. She will finish her coursework in the fall semester and apply for jobs teaching chorus and general music in middle school. Brin has supported herself by teaching figure skating in the Boston area several days a week.

At KSC: A scholarship recipient in 2010 and 2011, Brin was involved in many music ensembles, including the band Accidental Harmony. She student taught in area schools.

"I transferred to Keene State two years ago. My piano teacher and my education teacher got me involved in music education, and I've developed as a musician and learned how to teach music to others. Coming from a school where I wasn't really involved, I learned how important it is to become part of a community. I'd advise incoming students, whether they are freshmen or transfers, to get involved with what you love to do, as much as you can."

Jacob Meier, BS

Merrimack, NH

Jacob Meier photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– chemistry; was the recipient of the Merck Scholar Award for exemplary research. He will begin a PhD program in chemistry at South Dakota State University on a fellowship that includes full tuition and a stipend. Jacob will study under Dr. Brian Logue, who uses analytical techniques for solar cell applications and detection of chemical warfare agents.

At KSC: Jacob participated in research from his sophomore to senior years and focused on analytical chemistry and developing methods of separating environmental pollutants, using mass spectrometry on lichen samples from the Monadnock region. He presented at several high-profile regional and international conferences, and received a summer research fellowship (2010) and an undergraduate student research grant.

"I'm able to talk to all of my professors openly. It's great. I've done a lot of independent research, something I might not have been able to do at another institution. My professors have opened my eyes to all of the possibilities after graduating."

Jackie Vanacore, BA

Poughquag, NY

Jackie Vanacore photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– sociology; international studies minor; received the Senior Service Award. She will travel to Guatemala in summer 2011 to teach English, and plans to join AmeriCorps and eventually work for an international nonprofit.

At KSC: Jackie studied in Florence, Italy (2009); participated in the ASB trip to Florida Everglades (2010); joined Global Youth Connects human rights delegation to Bosnia-Herzegovina (summer 2010); was a volunteer coordinator for the KSC Community Service Office; volunteered on executive boards of St. Jude's "Up Till Dawn" fund-raiser, Habitat for Humanity, and Alpha Kappa Delta/Sociology Honor Society; was an academic peer advisor and orientation leader; was part of American Democracy Project/eCitizenship group; and co-led KSCRight2Vote.

"The small classroom setting has allowed me to get to know my professors and peers, and our administrators and faculty encourage student projects and initiatives. My advice to new students is to get involved, travel, and try new things!"

Deanna "Dede" Garceau, BA

Princeton, MA

Deanna 'Dede' Garceau photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– summa cum laude, French, Spanish, and Education (triple major); scholarship recipient and winner of the Senior Service Award and Batchelder Memorial Award for French. Will teach French and Spanish at Alvirne High School in Hudson, NH, in the fall.

At KSC: Dede had five jobs – in the Student Center, CDC, Aspire, as a modern language tutor, and in the Office of Disability Services as a note-taker. Elected to National Society of Collegiate Scholars and honor societies for French, Spanish, and education. Studied in Paris and in Quito and Tamarindo, Educador. Was chosen by the faculty to carry the Arts and Humanities gonfalon at commencement.

"What worked for me at Keene State was doing as much as I possibly could. The best thing I can suggest for new students: if you can function on four or five hours of sleep a night, do it."

Ryan LaLiberty, BA

Keene, NH

Ryan LaLiberty photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– magna cum laude, American studies, minor in philosophy. He received the Robin Dizard American Studies Award and Senior Service Award. Ryan will attend University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Library and Information Studies.

At KSC: Ryan was a projectionist in the Putnam Theatre (a job he inherited from his brother, Justin '10), and president of the Film Society. He worked in the library archives; went to Selma, AL, for alternate spring break (2011); presented and performed on guitar at the Academic Excellence Conference as a freshman; and presented at many conferences, including the Popular Culture conference in Texas (2011).

"I majored in American studies because it encompasses everything I love – art, music, history, literature. The faculty and students here are on a first-name basis, with great opportunities for research. Some of my best work has come from pushing the boundaries of a class. I took a physics class and wrote about minimalist composer Lamont Young. My advice to new students: Don't sit home on Facebook. If your days are packed, it's a good sign. And be sure to have fun."

Vanessa Ward, BS

Auburn, MA

Vanessa Ward photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– summa cum laude, biology. After graduation, Vanessa rode her bike from Baltimore, MD, to Seattle, WA – 4,000 miles – to raise money for a cancer foundation.

At KSC: Vanessa received scholarships and NH-INBRE grants. She presented independent research at the Academic Excellence Conference (2008, 2009, 2011). She ran cross country and competed in hurdles and mid-distance events on the track. In 2011, Vanessa received the Aubrey S. Thomas Jr. Biology Award for academic achievement in biology, and took Physics II during the summer at Clark University. She participated in Habitat for Humanity, alternate spring break, and Ultimate Frisbee.

"The biology faculty has been amazing, working with me one on one. I love that, and it was a big factor that kept me here. I don't have a main focus in biology yet, but all the research I've done is in vertebrates. My advice to new students is don't be scared about figuring out what you want to do. If your heart is there, nothing else matters."

Kristin Mehalik, BS

Londonderry, NH

Kristin Mehalik photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– elementary education; sociology minor; received 2011 Outstanding Women of New Hampshire and Senior Service awards. She will complete the student teaching requirement this fall in second and fourth grades in Nashua, and aspires to be a school principal.

At KSC: Kristin volunteered for Habitat for Humanity (four years; last two as president) and became a Big Sister in 2008; established a chapter of Girls, Inc., at Keene Middle School; worked in the Student Center as a scheduler; volunteered at the 100 Nights shelter in Keene; was a member of Kappa Delta Pi (national education honor society); and served as a teaching assistant in two sections of the course Issues in Education.

"There's a real feeling of home at Keene State. My professors in the Education Department, especially Dr. Nancy Lory and Mia Manning-Osborn, have guided and mentored me for the past four years. And being part of organizations on campus has helped me develop a strong sense of community and school pride. My advice to incoming freshmen: Get involved!"

Bryan Kolacz, BS

Brentwood, NH

Bryan Kolacz photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– physical education with teacher certification. He is a member of Phi Epsilon Kappa (national physical education honor society) and is applying for physical education teaching jobs in Portland, OR.

At KSC: Bryan is the most honored field athlete in school history. He's a five-time All-America thrower, and recently finished second in the hammer throw at the NCAA D-3 track and field national championships with a personal-best throw of 209 feet 6 inches. He was national champion in the event his sophomore year and earned All-America again as a junior. Bryan was named the LEC's top indoor field athlete for the last three years, and is on the 2011 KSC All-Academic team.

"Keene has a hometown feel, and everything is within five minutes' walk, so it's easy to be prompt, which really helps with my athletic and academic schedule. At KSC, everyone is always learning and everyone continues to change. I've had so many good role models. My education professors taught me a lot about working with younger children. The way they speak to children is an inspiration to me."

Sinéad O'Mahony, BA

Dover, NH

Sinéad O'Mahony photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– economics. She is finishing her coursework in the fall semester and applying to grad school for public administration and future work at a nonprofit.

At KSC: Sinéad won an outstanding leadership award as a sophomore and earned an AmeriCorps scholarship in 2011 for doing 300 hours of community service. She directed Keene State's Up Till Dawn fund-raiser for St. Jude's Hospital, which raised $18,000 in one night. Sinéad volunteered weekly at the Community Kitchen and helped organize the annual Alzheimer's Walk. She also worked for Admissions as a tour guide and for Athletics as Hootie the Owl.

"Giving back is a huge part of my life. Just about every day I'm either working on a new project or finishing up another. What I love about Keene State is that people believe in me. There's a family atmosphere, and the faculty want to see the students strive and achieve. My advice to new students is to do things that take you out of your comfort zone – things you can look back on in 10 years and say, 'Wow. That was cool.'"

Alex Trombly, BA

Swanzey, NH

Alex Trombly photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– cum laude, theatre and dance (technical design specialization). He is employed by MOCO Arts in Keene as a technical director and freelances at area high schools.

At KSC: Alex was the winner of the Julia McHale Redfern Prize in Performing Arts (2010), named Student Employee of the Year in 2009, worked directly with the Redfern's faculty technical director for all KSC shows and performances and for some touring companies; worked at MOCO Arts in Keene; and was a member of Alpha Psi Omega (national theatre and dance honor society).

"As a theatre major, I spent a lot of time at the Redfern, and Craig Lindsay, the faculty technical director, gave me hands-on experience from the start. It's a small program, so you get that one-on-one attention. But I'm sure if the program grows, the faculty will hold onto that value. My advice for new students: If you are passionate about a subject, go to your professors and say, 'I want to get this experience.' You are responsible for your own success."

Mollie-Jean Burgess, BS

Narragansett, RI

Mollie-Jean Burgess photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– athletic training. She will enter graduate school at Old Dominion University in Virginia in the athletic training master's program. Mollie-Jean would like to work as an athletic trainer in a hospital or clinic setting or for the military.

At KSC: Mollie-Jean was president of Phi Upsilon Kappa (national physical education honor society), a delegate to Eastern Athletic Trainers Association and student program chair. She worked as a nanny for a Keene family, at the front desk in the Rec Center, and summers as a camp counselor.

"I found a mentor in Dr. Wanda Swiger. She's been there for me through all the bumps and bruises of college – academically, clinically, and personally. I have a passion for teaching, which I got from her. My advice to new students: learn time management, not only for academic coursework, but also for your social life too. Try to find a balance early on."

Meagan Blais, BA

Jaffrey, NH

Meagan Blais photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– summa cum laude, double major in Holocaust and genocide studies and European history, minor in German. She will travel for a year while applying to the University of Amsterdam's master's program in Holocaust and genocide studies. (Meagan is shown here with Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.)

At KSC: Meagan, assistant director during her sophomore year of Kaddish (a musical work by Lawrence Siegel that memorialized the Holocaust), won the Hildebrandt Award for Holocaust Studies twice as well as the F. Burton Nelson Award for Holocaust Studies. She was also awarded the Dr. J. Duane Squires History Prize (2011). Meagan was a member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Alpha Theta (national history honor society), traveled to Europe with the KSC-sponsored Holocaust study group (2010), and worked off-campus at a ski and snowboard shop.

"My favorite class, Rethinking the Holocaust, was taught by Dr. Paul Vincent and Hank Knight. It was incredible. The faculty at the Cohen Center helped me focus and develop what I really want to do. I'd tell new students to work hard and play hard, and to take school seriously. This is the best time of your life, but it is what you make it."

Mary Benson, BA

Keene, NH

Mary Benson photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– magna cum laude, English, with a minor in writing. She won the Eder Creative Writing Award and will attend grad school at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to earn an MFA in creative writing, with a focus on poetry. Mary aspires to publish throughout her life and teach at the college level.

At KSC: Mary tutored at the Writing Center and also worked part-time at a local bagel shop. She took every creative writing and poetry course she could find and loves the work of Phillip Levine, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, David Foster Wallace, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Carver. She can't stand William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch.

"Take your professors seriously, because they have a lot to offer. If you can build a good base with them, they can guide you in the long run."

Zach Beaver, BS

Bedford, NH

Zach Beaver photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– applied computer science, minor in criminal justice. He will attend graduate school at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study student affairs and higher education, and will intern at Seton Hill University.

At KSC: Zach won a Dean's Scholarship and Senior Service Award. He was president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a member of Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities and KSC Pride. Zach trained advisors and developed programs in the Student Center, served on Student Conference Fund and Academic Enrichment Fund committees, worked as a RA, and served on the Budget and Resource Council.

"During my time at Keene, I've really been able to take advantage of opportunities. If I saw something I wanted, I went for it, and if there was something that wasn't here, I could help make it happen. My co-curricular experiences have been so wonderful they will be my career. I hope to be a student affairs administrator at a college."

Chris Riley, BS

Halifax, MA

Chris Riley photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– architecture; works for College Gate and College Academy in the summer. He will be interning with architects for a year, then entering a master's degree program in sustainable design.

At KSC: Chris is on the executive board of Campus Ecology and served for three years on the President's Council for a Sustainable Future. His favorite research project was about translucent concrete, a new product that changes the aesthetics of concrete.

"The architecture program here is all about sustainability, and there were so many correlations with that throughout my four years. Even the Dining Commons tries to prepare foods grown through sustainable agriculture. Maybe it's the community of Keene or the principles of the school, but the people and their ways here already are sustainable. What I love about my major is that our design solutions have an enormous impact on people's lives. We are designing the future."

Anna McLean, BS

Gilford, NH

Anna McLean photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– cum laude, biology; winner of the Senior Service Award and Gianferrari Prize in biology. She will work at the Ragon Institute for HIV research in Boston, and then apply to PhD programs to study developmental stem-cell biology.

At KSC: Anna worked in labs on campus and two recent projects where she studied planerian flatworms, specifically their rates of stem-cell division under starvation conditions and how the worms are affected by the toxicity of polyaromatic hydrocarbons; interned at Johns Hopkins Medical School (summer 2010) and completed an award-winning independent research project with Professor Kristen Porter-Utley; was a member of Beta Beta Beta (national biology honor society) and the Biology Club.

"We have awesome faculty in the Biology Department. If I had gone to a bigger school, I wouldn't have had the one-on-one relationships that you can build at Keene State. The same goes for research opportunities. The faculty here inspired me to follow my goals. Knowing your professors and their own networking and experiences is really important for science students."

Julian Washington, BS

Waitsfield, VT

Julian Washington photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– cum laude, safety and occupational health applied sciences. Julian would love to travel the world, but for now he is focused on using his degree to get a job.

"ASSE provided me with education outside of class and exposure to professionals in my field. For my capstone project, I was a safety consultant at Manchester School of Technology. The whole safety faculty inspired me to work hard and develop a mentality for problem-solving. Because of my major, I will be able to save lives and make a difference to those around me. My advice to new students is to use all the resources Keene State has to offer – you will be giving yourself a huge hand up. Study hard, work hard, and have fun."

At KSC: Julian was a college scholarship recipient, made the dean's list, was a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and Rho Sigma Kappa (national safety honor society), and attended ASSE Safety 2011 Exposition in Chicago in June through a UPS Diversity Scholarship.

Kelly Payeur, BA

Rochester, NH

Kelly Payeur photograph by Will Wrobel '11

– cum laude, anthropology (individualized major), minor in studio art; Honors Program. Kelly's moving to Burlington, VT, to work for a year, and then she'll go to graduate school to study photojournalism or archeology.

"I have found a lot of support from the faculty. Because it's a small campus, teachers have a personal connection with every student, and they make everyone feel welcome. As an RA, I tell new students to get involved in any way they can, whether it's super-involved like running for a class office or just joining a club."

At KSC: Kelly was the president of the senior class and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She received the Senior Service Award and was the recipient of the President's and Morrison Foundation scholarships. Kelly was an RA (resident assistant) for three years and a desk coordinator in a residence hall. She went to Namibia (2009) and Belize (2010) for global service-learning projects. As a senior, she did an archeological independent study researching and analyzing stone tool fragments from Belize to discover a link with the ancient Maya.

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