Student & Alumni Stories

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Student & Alumni Stories

Erin Zehr ’19Click to expand photo of Erin Zehr

Global Health Studies with Spanish minor

“My participation with the wonderful Spanish department at Allegheny has been a great experience on its own, but has also deeply enriched my time as a Global Health Studies major. The education and guidance I received from the Spanish faculty gave me the confidence to study abroad for a semester in Ecuador. The experience not only improved my Spanish but also provided growth and clarity for my future aspirations, working on health and justice for displaced populations. I completed an internship in Ecuador working to provide services and advocacy for Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants. The ability to engage with people in their native language as I did that work made it far more profound and impactful. I am very grateful to the Spanish department for preparing me so well for my time abroad and beyond and for increasing my love for the Spanish language throughout the years.”

Maria Mervine ’18

Psychology with French minor

“The most amazing and fulfilling experience I have had since I became a student at Allegheny is the internship I participated in during the summer

after my sophomore year in Fismes, France. I learned about the internship through one of my French Language professors, and I hurriedly applied. Through this internship, I traveled first to Paris and learned all about the history of the city for several days, and

then I traveled east to Fismes, France, which is a small town just west of the city of Reims. There, I was able to work in the Office of the Mayor and help them prepare for their inauguration of a historical monument honoring the lives of American (specifically Pennsylvanian) soldiers who rebuilt the collapsed town during World War I. A connection between Meadville and Fismes has endured ever since this period, and I am so grateful that I was able to meet the wonderful people living in that small community, practice and strengthen my French-speaking skills, and live with the most amazing and welcoming host family.”

Molly O’Donnell ’18

German and Spanish double major, Middle East/North Africa Studies (MENA) minor

“The faculty of the Modern Languages Department have been extremely helpful in allowing me to develop as a student. They are always

there when you have questions and are extremely supportive in all of my dreams, especially when it comes to taking so many languages and studying abroad.”

Involvement: Clarinet Ensemble and Wind Symphony Field Hockey Club Secretary of Model United Nations Culture 2 Culture mentor for international students from Germany, China, and Mozambique Volunteer with the Computer Literacy Program, which tutors underprivileged children in Meadville Researcher working with Professor Barbara Riess on the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges International Club Study abroad in Buenos Aires

Click to expand photo of Tyler WalkerTyler Walker ’18

“I just wanted to update you on some of the amazing things I have gotten to do since joining the Omaha metro area.

Since moving here in May, I have become one of the lead directors for our association in working with our Spanish Speaking community as well as new international arrivals to Nebraska. I am currently in the process of creating a bilingual summer camp program in 2019, the first in Omaha and the first with the YMCA community in the Midwest. This summer, our camp programs had over 100 kids, 33% of whom were Spanish speaking.

My goal has been to bridge the gap between the Spanish speaking community of South Omaha with the West Omaha community. Since my arrival, we have seen a spike in Spanish speakers joining our YMCA because of the new priority of making our Y a bilingual space, half of my day in spent in Spanish, which I absolutely love.

I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the opportunity to really connect my love for The YMCA with my language interests. Without Allegheny, I would not have been in a position to think critically and serve this community. I love my work, and am now at Creighton University getting my Masters of Organizational Leadership and my MBA (Mostly paid for by the YMCA and part time! :-)”

Morgan Hazzard ‘17

“I recently graduated with the class of 2017. I got my bachelors of science in biochemistry with my minor being Spanish. I have had the opportunity to put my language skills to use on many occasions. Last year with the Nicaragua EL I was so fortunate to have a smaller language barrier to help me develop bonds and relationships with the community we were working with.

“Now I am working in a hospital in Boulder, CO. I am an aide for the medical/surgical unit and there have been several patients in my assignment and simply on our floor who had limited English skills and a preference for using the Spanish language. There are translators for primary communication between the patients and doctors and various representatives who are part of their health team, however, they are not always available. My fluency in Spanish has allowed me to provide more personalized care to someone who can feel a bit alienated when everyone who is helping them cannot understand their needs or they do not fully understand our instruction and treatment.

“I am so blessed to have been able to perfect my skills at Allegheny and put them to use in a practical setting. Thanks to the Spanish department!”

Grant Marthinsen ’17

Arabic language program, International Studies major, Religious Studies minor

“The Arabic language program at Allegheny College was an integral part of my undergraduate studies. I enrolled in the introductory course during my first semester as a Gator, and quickly fell in love with the language, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm and excellence of the Arabic instructors, both the professors and their assistants. After completing a second semester of Arabic in the spring of my first academic year, I was able to attend an intensive summer Arabic course, a decision of which the College was quite supportive. Upon returning to campus that following fall, Professor Reem Hilal worked closely with me to design a program of independent study which would allow me to continue learning Arabic in line with the advances that I had made over the summer. I then spent a semester in Amman, the capital of Jordan – another Arabic-centric program of which Allegheny College was supportive.

“If not for the Allegheny Arabic program then I would not be where I am today. After completing my undergraduate studies and spending some time in the private sector, I went to Rabat, Morocco, where I further studied Arabic; I was qualified for this experience because of my time at Allegheny. This all led to my acceptance by Georgetown University’s Arab Studies Master’s program, where I am currently studying Middle Eastern politics and continuing to hone my Arabic language skills. The Arabic language program at Allegheny College is both supportive and flexible, and is comprised of educators who genuinely work towards the success of their students.”

Derek Reno ’16

Environmental Science and French double major

“The Modern Languages faculty are top-notch professors and are a wealth of information about both the language and the culture. With their help, I’ve been able to drastically increase my fluency in the French language. What’s more, I was given the great opportunity of living in the French House of the Max Kade International Wing of North Village. In the French House, my housemates and I lived with a native French teaching assistant who encouraged us to only speak French on a daily basis within the house. Living in a sociable, francophone atmosphere around the clock for a whole year allowed me to build my French fluency by leaps and bounds.”

Involvement: Member of Phi Sigma Iota, the International Foreign Language Honor Society Volunteer coordinator for the College’s DeHart Local Foods Dinner Research assistant to the chair of the Department of Environmental Science GIS and Remote Sensing teaching assistant in the ES Department Summer intern with the Meadville Community Wellness Initiative

Katherine Deutch ‘14

“I graduated in 2014 as a Spanish major and Biology minor. I was on the pre-health track. My focus was always to work in healthcare bilingually, but I had a strong interest in global health. My comp was about the theory of biopolitics as portrayed in films from Spanish speaking countries. It examined several public health issues and how both the political philosophy, and the cultures themselves examined them. I studied abroad my junior year in Ecuador, where I focused on public health. I also participated in the Nicaragua EL trip, and Allegheny alumni service trips to El Salvador and Honduras.

“I went to Miami soon after graduating to start Physician Assistant school. It was a 2.5 year program in which I worked in Spanish and English to examine, interview, and explain treatment options to patients. I also served as the Medical Spanish TA. Despite being in South Florida, I was often the only person who could translate in my clinical experiences.

“From there, I moved to Fort Myers, Florida where I began a career as a Physician Assistant in Psychiatry. I treat my own patients and often spend my whole day speaking in Spanish. I am one of two Spanish speaking providers, but am the only one who speaks Spanish as a second language. I work with immigrants from a variety of Latin American countries, and my experiences have helped me to understand their cultures. Being able to work in Spanish has provided many opportunities, and I am grateful that I was able to gain this knowledge through Allegheny.”

Hillary Fenrich ’14

Learning Spanish at Allegheny has enabled me to find and succeed in fulfilling international jobs in Costa Rica (sustainability consultant and teacher at a private school), Panama (conservation research assistant for the Smithsonian), and Peru (as an assistant for School for Field Studies, also managed a biological field station in the Peruvian Amazon). I have created incredible relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and honed my ability to tell their stories. Learning Spanish allowed me to embrace whole-heartedly salsa and bachata dancing around the Latin world and eat my way across South and Central America with more knowledge of what exactly is on my plate! I am able to break down gringa-from-the-US barriers, spread my love of the language through teaching, and discuss environmental issues of all kinds (my passion) that reach far past the sensationalism of the media. As a bonus, I’ve learnt Portuguese far more quickly, leading to a Brazilian Amazon expedition (as well as Italian, allowing me a fuller experience in Bologna). But most importantly, through the Spanish classes at Allegheny, I’ve been able to cultivate skills that make me a more-aware global citizen with honed cultural sensitivity… Thanks, Allegheny!

Bryan Johnston ‘05

“At Allegheny I was a Computer Science major, and I minored in Spanish. Shortly after graduation, I took a job in the tech support department for a credit reporting agency. While my CS major helped, it was my Spanish background that got my foot in the door. I supported customers in English and I was the sole Spanish speaking tech support for the company.

“This job was not what I wanted as a career, but led to better opportunities. Half a year later I took a tech support role with DynaVox, where we produced communication equipment and educational software for people with communication disabilities. At DynaVox I served English speaking customers and again was the sole Spanish speaking tech support for the company.

“After a year in tech support at DynaVox, I moved into the R&D department as a Test Engineer. Not only did I test our software but I assisted in the localization of our software to Spanish so that native Spanish speakers could benefit from our products.

“Currently I am a Senior Software Engineer with Thermo Fisher Scientific. While I haven’t spoken Spanish in quite some time, or used it directly in my current role, my language education at Allegheny has provided me with numerous opportunities that have lead me down my current career path, for which I am truly grateful.”

Ahmad Douglas ’02

By far the most impactful use of my German…was in the mid-2000s when my father was working as an intelligence contractor for the U.S. in Iraq. He had a heart attack, and the military flew him to Homburg, Germany for a quadruple bypass.  I got the call at my desk in New Mexico and was the only person in my family who could make the trip on hours’ notice.

Lost in translation, all I was told was that he was at the “University Hospital” in “Hamburg” — folks couldn’t distinguish Hamburg from Homburg, and frankly I also had never heard of the latter.  I landed in Hamburg about 24 hours after receiving the initial call, necessarily leveraging my German to get to the “Herzklinik” at the “Universitätsklinikum” in Hamburg.

What a jarring surprise when the nurse on duty and I searched the entire patient roster throughout the hospital only to find my father wasn’t on it!

Searching the Internet and relying on stateside friends and family via Facebook, we determined that there was a city named Homburg where U.S. wounded were routinely sent.  Awake now for probably 36 hours, I caught the last ICE bullet train of the day, and around two in the morning arrived at the Universitätsklinikum Homburg in time to greet my father as he opened his eyes in the recovery room.

“Herzlichen Glückwünsch” to you and the MCL department.  My days in Ruter Hall are fondly remembered.

Cheryl Torsney ’77

Cheryl Torsney, Ph.D. (‘77) with sons Benjamin Torsney, Ph.D. (‘08), right, and Edward Torsney (‘12)

“Although my Ph.D. is in English, French has come in pretty handy over the years.  I could read literary theory in my doctoral program in the original French, and I taught American literature as a Fulbrighter at the Université de Savoie in Chambéry.

“When my children were young, I traded childcare with my bff, a French professor. Thanks to my foreign languages training, I understood their demands that the peau be removed from their apples before they’d eat them.

“Thanks to my French major, I experienced a strange sort of language interference when chatting with the locals in El Paso, TX, my former home.  I could understand their Spanish, but when I opened my mouth to reply, French came out.  Zut alors!”

Alumni Careers

A further sampling of our alumni demonstrates the variety of careers they pursue, the important work they do, and the distinguished positions they achieve:

Rosemary Geisdorfer Feal ’77, executive director emerita of the Modern Language Association and professor at Wellesley College

Michael Burns ’85, assistant district attorney, Erie County, Pennsylvania

Joel Nagel ’86, attorney, Nagel & Goldstein, Pittsburgh; currently serving as an Ambassador for the Government of Belize in Vienna, Austria

Wendy O’Connor ’88, procurement financial analyst, Rohm & Haas Co., Philadelphia

David Callahan ’91, senior vice president, Charles Schwab Investments, San Francisco

Michael Knapp ’91, operations manager/interpreter, Languages by Nicole, Inc., Pittsburgh

Rachel Hayward ’92, ESL instructor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Deborah Momsen ’92, vice president of secondary marketing, Self-Help Credit Union, Durham, North Carolina

Marie Warner ’94, oral history assistant, Foreign Service Institute

Wojtek Moskwa ’94, journalist, Reuters

T.J. Grubisha ’95, foreign service officer, U.S. Department of State

Warren Payne III ’95, trade economist, U.S. House of Representatives

Priscilla Bennett ’98, teacher, Valley School of
Ligonier, Pittsburgh

Victoria Cortes ’99, senior researcher, National Geographic Television

Sarah Gilbertson ’99, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game

Sasha White de la Cobas ’00, Deputy District Attorney, Riverside County California

Melissa Berger Peck ’01, vice president, compliance manager, J.P. Morgan Chase

Rebecca Varathungarajan ’01, local manufacturing coordinator, Yves Rocher Services, Exton, Pennsylvania

Chris Eicher ’02, physician

James T. Saunders ’04, Director of International Research, Economic Research Institute

Carly Shane ’04, International Enrollment Manager, Robert Morris University

Shealyn Stenglein ’04, business development manager, Curves Europe

Wilma Mast Dunkle ’05, teacher, Crawford Central School District

Lauren Destafano ’06, finance/operations, Intel Corp.

Hillary Bennett ’06, International Operations Coordinator, U.S. Grains Council

Sandra Larson ’07, Principal Security Advisor for a cyber intelligence firm

Kyle Macken ’07, business analyst, Fortalice Solutions

Michael McCray ’07, attorney, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Chicago IL

Jocelyn Sabruno ‘07, instructor of Spanish at Washington HS, Washington, PA

Angela Wells ’07, associate pastor, Calvary United Methodist Church

Amy Erdlen ’08, Congressional aide, U.S. House of Representatives

Jessica Pennisi ’08, legal analyst, Abercrombie & Fitch

Kimberly Tranel ’08, naturalist, Catalina Island Conservancy

Meghan Fazinger ‘10,  English Language Fellow, U.S. Department of State

Lisa Gleason ’10, project manager, Lionbridge Location & Translation Services

Mitchell Close ’12Bilingual Team Coordinator/Internal Consultant, AmerisourceBergen Consulting Services

Wenonah Echelard ‘12, International Marketing Manager, Tictail, NYC

Noelle Broulliard ’13, head women’s lacrosse coach, Whitworth University

Timothy Kloeppel ’15, mortgage analyst, Federal Savings Bank

Katherine Touscany ’16, global operations response coordinator, iJet International

Brianna Fowler ’16, English teacher, École/Lycée Privé Sainte Agnès, Angers, France

Yemi Olaiya ’17, magisterial intern, U.S. District Court