Approximately 200 College of Arts and Architecture undergraduates received their degrees on May 4, 2019, led by College Marshal Ilyse Aber, who earned her bachelor of music education degree with a cumulative 4.0 GPA.
Aber is the daughter of Sheila Aber and Ken Aber of Warrington, Pa.A clarinetist, she was active in numerous Penn State ensembles, including the Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Fall Athletic Band, and the Clarinet Choir, for which she served as president in 2018. In addition to being a Dean’s List student, she received the President’s Freshman Award, the President Sparks Award, the Evan Pugh Scholars Award, and the Performer’s Recognition Award. She plans to obtain a position as an elementary general music teacher and later pursue a master’s degree in music education.
The college also named eight academic unit marshals.
Mieke Kissick, daughter of Helen and Shawn Kissick of Beaver, Pa., was the Department of Architecture student marshal and received a bachelor of architecture degree. She won numerous awards and scholarships while at Penn State, including the 2018 Department of Architecture Design Excellence Award, 2018 Charles Hilton Scholarship for Excellence, 2017 Ward and Judith Thompson Global Awareness Scholarship, and a 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Pennsylvania Student Award. She was a member of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), AIAS Benefiting THON, Students for Environmentally Enlightened Design (SEED), and the Digital Beehive. She plans to work as an architectural design professional at Design Collective in Baltimore.
Kyle Posey, son of Lisa and Scott Posey of State College, was the Department of Art History student marshal. He pursued dual degrees and received a bachelor of arts in art history and bachelor of arts in comparative literature, as well as a minor in French and francophone studies. Posey was a Schreyer Scholar whose thesis is a translation from French to English of an art history book by a French novelist. As a research assistant, he helped organize a conference on word and image studies for the American Japanese Literature Association and helped edit its proceedings. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Samuel P. Bayard Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Performance. Kyle’s goals are to write fiction and to work toward action on climate change.
Kathleen Mensing, daughter of Dan Mensing of Cooksville, Md., was the Graphic Design program student marshal and received a bachelor of design in graphic design. Her current portfolio focuses on photography, layout design, UX/UI, and branding. She independently rebranded the second annual Penn State Sports Business Conference, which helped establish partnerships with AT&T, Morgan Stanley, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Her work has been recognized by Graphisand she received a 2019 College of Arts and Architecture Creative Achievement Award. She plans to move to New York City to work as a creative strategist with inHouse Productions Inc.
Nicholas Karafilis, son of Gus and Nancy Karafilis of Bridgeville, Pa., was the Integrative Arts program student marshal and received a bachelor of arts in integrative arts. His numerous activities included Lion Ambassadors, Thespians, Singing Lions, Glee Club, and Lion Caucus. A Schreyer Scholar, he founded the Penn State Museum, where he created original artifact displays through the curation of other organizations’ collections. Honors include the Penn State Glee Club Bruce Trinkley Award for Artistry, Penn State Homecoming Royalty “Guide State Forward” Award, and the Mills Family Scholarship. He will work as an intern for Penn State’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations this summer and hopes to someday be a Disney Imagineer.
Xiaoji Zhou, daughter of Xianglin Xhou of Wuhan, Hubei, China, was the Department of Landscape Architecture student marshal. She pursued dual degrees and received a bachelor of landscape architecture and a bachelor of arts in art history. She was the recipient of a 2019 College of Arts and Architecture Creative Achievement Award, a Student Honor Award from the PA-DE chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and several Department of Landscape Architecture Excellence Awards, among other honors. She served as president of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students. Xiaoji has been admitted to Harvard University Graduate School of Design for the concurrent master of landscape architecture and master of design degree.
Ryan Czekaj, son of Carla Glisan of Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa., was the School of Music student marshal and received a bachelor of music education and bachelor of music in viola performance. Also a clarinetist, he was the recipient of the Performer’s Recognition Award, Arts and Architecture Alumni Society Scholarship, Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Research Grant, and Undergraduate Jury Honors. A Schreyer Scholar, he presented his research at the National Association for Music Education’s Eastern Division Conference. He was a member of The Elgar Society and Encore Benefiting THON. He plans to pursue a career as a high school band director.
Gabriella Benedicto, daughter of Heather and Michael Benedicto of South Setauket, N.Y., was the School of Theatre student marshal and received a bachelor of fine arts in theatre, stage management option, and a minor in English. She was the recipient of the Mabel Reed Knight Scholarship, William and Julia Clark Excellence Scholarship, Penn State Club of Long Island Scholarship, and a fall 2018 Student Engagement Network Grant, among other honors. She was a member of Everyday Benefiting THON, and danced in THON 2019. A playwright, she held a reading of her new play, Crossing at an Intersection, in State College this past March. She has had internships at the Bryce Jordan Center, Event Kings, and the Off-Broadway Second Stage Theater. She plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in stage and events management.
Victoria Davenport, of Blakeslee, Pa., was the School of Visual Arts student marshal and received a bachelor of science in art education. She gained extensive teaching experience while a Penn State student by working as a School of Visual Arts Saturday Art School teacher, a virtual art teacher, an art camp instructor, and through art projects at local schools. She has been an active member of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. During her time at Penn State she studied abroad in Costa Rica and Ireland.
College Marshal Ilyse Aber accompanied by Anthony Costa, associate professor of clarinet.