Emerging Alumni Leaders

Emerging Alumni Leaders
Emerging Alumni Leaders

The Emerging Alumni Leaders are Penn State Liberal Arts mid-career alumni professionals who provide valuable industry information and insight to help shape the future of the college and equip current students for successful postgraduate careers. These alumni leaders also network with members of the college’s Alumni Society Board and Development Council and engage with students, faculty, and programs on campus.

Brian Blasé
’03 Political Science, Mathematics

Brian is the president of Paragon Health Institute. He was special assistant to the president for economic policy at the White House’s National Economic Council (NEC) from 2017–19, where he coordinated the development and execution of numerous health policies and advised the president, NEC director, and senior officials. After leaving the White House, Brian founded Blase Policy Strategies and serves as its CEO. Brian guided the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s health care and entitlement program oversight and investigation efforts from 2011–14 and then served as the Senate Republican Policy Committee’s health policy analyst from 2014–15. Brian serves as a policy adviser to Hoosiers for Affordable Health Care and as a visiting fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He has also worked at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and at the Heritage Foundation. Brian is a prolific researcher and writer, authoring scores of research studies and policy analyses and regularly writing commentaries for The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The Hill, National Review Online, and Forbes. Brian received his doctorate in economics from George Mason University. He lives in Florida with his wife and five children.

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Blase, Brian
Hannah Bracale
’13 English, Comparative Literature

Hannah is a business development director at Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory firm and a member of the S&P 500. In her role she is responsible for leading the end-to-end sales process for the Legal, Risk, & Compliance Leaders Large Enterprise program, with the goal of securing new general counsel, chief compliance officer, and chief data privacy officer clients. Prior to joining Gartner in 2019, Hannah spent nearly six years at TransPerfect, where she worked her way from an account manager to a director of strategic accounts, supporting life sciences clients through their translation and international regulatory processes. Recently, Hannah established the “Pass-It-On” Scholarship for upper division students majoring in English with demonstrated financial need. She was awarded the Outstanding Young English Alumni Award in spring 2021 and continues to participate in various speaking and mentorship engagements with the College of the Liberal Arts. She currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Bracale, Hannah
Sawyer Welham Caruso
’14 Labor Studies and Employment, ’20g Psychology of Leadership

Sawyer is a dynamic and results-oriented human resources professional with over ten years of professional experience. In her most recent role as head of people at Mytaverse, a global metaverse technology start-up, Sawyer defined and executed a comprehensive human capital strategy that aligned HR initiatives with the company’s vision. She is now transitioning into a strategic people adviser role at Mytaverse while seeking new opportunities. Sawyer excels in talent management and is passionate about driving organizational growth and culture. Before joining Mytaverse, Sawyer accumulated years of experience in HR business partner and HR specialist roles for various management and technology consulting firms. In addition to her two degrees from Penn State, she is also an SHRM-Senior Certified Practitioner (SHRM-SCP) and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). At Penn State, Sawyer is a mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program; she also facilitates mock interviews and participates in student career panel discussions. Sawyer resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband Joe.

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Caruso, Sawyer Welham
Liz Covart
’03 History

Liz is the founding director of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and is best known for her work as the creator, historian, and host of the award-winning podcast Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History. As the founding director of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios, Liz practices a blend of scholarly history, public history, and digital humanities. Liz has research expertise in the American Revolution and is working on a history of the Articles of Confederation and American Union.

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Covart, Liz
Kara Davis
’96 Letters, Arts, and Sciences

Kara is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in the Division of Hematology and Oncology. She is the Harriet and Mary Zelencik Endowed Faculty in Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases. Kara received her doctor of osteopathy from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2000. She completed her clinical training in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and Stanford University. Kara is a physician-scientist, running an NIH-funded translational research laboratory focused on applying single-cell technologies to childhood cancers to identify cell populations predictive of relapse. Kara has been instrumental in leading clinical trials utilizing the immune system to treat relapsed cancer in children. Clinically, Kara cares for children with newly diagnosed and relapsed acute leukemia. Kara lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband Matt, two children—Julian and Lucia, and two large dogs.

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Davis, Kara
David Epstein
’07 Labor and Industrial Relations

David shares a well-defined understanding of the business world today and possesses the capacity to identify and align clients’ needs with the products and services being offered. Coming from a successful and diverse background in human capital, he can engage decision makers, devise winning strategies and solutions, and provide organizations with a way to fuel employee growth now and into the future. David has been featured in Top 40 Under 40 and Glassdoor’s Top Ranked Leaders. He is an adviser to business owners and early-stage technology and fintech companies, a retained career strategist, a Penn State board member, and a sought after speaker, presenter, and lecturer to various universities and firms across the country.

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Epstein, David
Caroline Fitzgerald
’12 Women’s Studies, Marketing

Caroline Fitzgerald is the CEO and founder of GOALS—a women’s sports marketing consultancy and media platform based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Caroline launched GOALS in 2020 after recognizing that there was an opportunity to help brands, networks, and fans see the social and economic value that can come from investing in women’s sports. GOALS also produces the leading women’s sports business podcast The Business Case for Women’s Sports, which is presented by Ally.

Before launching GOALS, Caroline worked for more than ten years as a marketing and sponsorship sales professional for a variety of organizations, including Kohl’s Department Stores, the Smithsonian-affiliated Heinz History Center museum, and the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Caroline graduated from Penn State with bachelor’s degrees in Women’s Studies and Marketing in 2012 and also holds a master of science degree in global sport from New York University. While at Penn State, Caroline served as the merchandise director for THON 2011; a Lion Ambassador; a member of the Women’s Club Basketball Team; a member of TRIOTA, Penn State’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Honor Society; a resident assistant; and a student program associate at Penn State’s Center for Gender Equity for four years. Caroline is also one of eight siblings, all of whom are Penn State graduates.

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Caroline Fitzgerald
Hannah Furnas
’14g, ’17 Ph.D. Sociology and Demography

Hannah is a senior research science manager at Meta where she leads a team of research scientists focusing on Meta’s ads and business products. Hannah’s dissertation research focused on technology use and access in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically the behavior of device sharing among women in Malawi. She furthered her tech-related research during her time as a researcher at Meta where she expanded her portfolio to cover development and validation of tracking metrics and machine learning around truth data. In her current role, Hannah enjoys coaching and supporting her team, strategic decision making, and delivering research to guide company priorities.

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Furnas, Hannah
Julius Halstead
’16 Political Science, Philosophy

Julius is a litigation associate at Goulston & Storrs PC, a full-service law firm based in Boston, Massachusetts. A 2019 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, Julius represents and advises clients in real estate, commercial, and employment disputes. He also maintains an active pro bono practice, which includes defending individual tenants from eviction and advocating for civil rights. Earlier in his career, Julius served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Benita Y. Pearson of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Before graduating from Penn State in 2016, he was the president of the Multicultural Undergraduate Law Association and served as a research assistant within the Departments of Political Science and Communication Arts and Sciences. Julius resides in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Halstead, Julius
John Hendrickson
’10 English

John is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter, a reported memoir that grew out of his 2019Atlantic article What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say. John has spoken about politics, journalism, disability, and other topics on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and PBS, and at colleges and universities across the country. Before joining The Atlantic, he wrote and edited for Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The Denver Post. He lives in New York City with his wife.

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Hendrickson, John
Jason Hunt
’01 History

Originally from Los Angeles, Jason has twenty years of professional experience in the higher education industry, having worked in auxiliary units across the university landscape including housing and residence life, student conduct, and student leadership. Presently, Jason is a management consultant in the health and public sector practice at Accenture in New York City specializing in higher education and change management. His role includes supporting business development opportunities across the practice and supporting clients in their change management journey across the higher education industry and most recently, the transportation sector. In addition to his Penn State degrees, Jason holds an M.B.A. in strategy and leadership from Rutgers Business School and is currently pursuing certification in project management. He is an active mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program and resides in Springfield, New Jersey.

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Hunt, Jason W.
Jeff Kornberg
’08 English

Jeffrey is a producer/director at Condé Nast Entertainment where he’s made more than 250 videos with more than 700 million views on YouTube. He’s helped create and develop some of the biggest series on the internet for Vanity Fair, Wired, GQ, Bon Appetit, Epicurious, and more. In 2016, he executive produced the independent documentary Goodnight Brooklyn which was selected to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, and in 2018, he won a Webby Award for producing the virtual reality dating show Virtually Dating. Additionally, he’s worked on television shows for NBC, MTV, Nickelodeon, Fuse, and Comedy Central, and created/hosts The Dragon’s Tomb, a satirical board game YouTube channel with 17,000+ subscribers. At Penn State, Jeffrey founded Full Ammo Improv, the University’s official improvisational comedy troupe. He has served as a mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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Kornberg, Jeff
Adriana Lacy
’18 African American Studies, Journalism

Adriana is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur based in Boston. As the founder and chief executive officer of Adriana Lacy Consulting, she leads a dynamic digital consulting firm, empowering publishers and businesses to grow their digital audiences. With prior newsroom experience that spans renowned media outlets such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Axios, she brings a wealth of expertise to her endeavors. In addition to her role as a leading consultant, Adriana serves as an adjunct lecturer in journalism, sharing her extensive knowledge with aspiring journalists. Her exceptional contributions to the field were acknowledged when she received the Forbes 30 Under 30 accolade in 2023.

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Lacy, Adriana
Gary McMillen
’12 Spanish, Accounting

Upon graduation, Gary began his career with Deloitte & Touché, LLP, where he is currently a senior manager in the audit and assurance practice in Washington, DC, providing independent audit services and advice and recommendations to clients related to financial reporting and technical accounting matters, primarily in the real estate and technology industries. In addition to his client responsibilities, Gary serves as a local leader of Deloitte’s Making Accounting Diverse and Equitable (MADE) initiatives and is focused on speaking to clients and teams on the emerging requirements and issues pertaining to environmental, sustainability, and governance standards and reporting. Gary and his wife, a fellow Penn Stater, live with their daughter in Washington, DC.

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McMillen, Gary
Melissa Pardi
’13 Spanish, Advertising/Public Relations

Melissa is an innovative philanthropic leader in the sports industry. As senior director of social responsibility for the National Football League (NFL), she leverages the league’s platform to raise awareness, inspire engagement, and make an impact throughout communities across the country. In this role, Melissa focuses on developing and growing the league’s community impact efforts, with specific attention to business integration and partnerships. Melissa also leads the creation and execution of key community impact programs around the NFL’s marquee events and plays an integral role in cross departmental projects focused on the continued growth of the NFL business. In 2016, she earned an executive certificate in sports philanthropy from the George Washington University School of Business. In 2022, she earned her M.B.A. from the New York University Stern School of Business. Melissa was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.

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Pardi, Melissa
Jake Plevelich
’13 History, Political Science

Jake is the director of government affairs for Rentokil-Terminix, the world’s largest pest control company based in Reading, Pennsylvania. In this role, Jake draws upon his many years of experience in advocacy, politics, and state and federal lobbying to protect people, enhance lives, and preserve our planet. His role includes representing the company at the federal level and in all fifty state governments. Prior to his current role, Jake was a lobbyist for a national trade association representing federal credit unions before Congress and was the lead on state government affairs for another national trade association representing the pest control industry. Since graduating, Jake has volunteered through many avenues within the College of the Liberal Arts and participates as a mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program. Jake received the inaugural Penn State Department of History Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2021, recognizing his success as a leader and dedication to Penn State. He resides in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

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Plevelich, Jake
Rebecca Rockey
’10 Economics, French and Francophone Studies, International Studies

Rebecca is the deputy chief economist and global head of forecasting at Cushman & Wakefield. Her focus spans economics, demographics, financial markets and commercial real estate—both at the macro and micro levels. She has become a strategic internal and external adviser across service lines and regions, connecting research themes to actionable and tactical views on the market. She is certified by the International Institute of Forecasters and is a member of the American Economic Association, the National Association of Business Economists, and the National Economists Club. She is frequently cited in the media, guest lectures at New York University, and serves as an adviser to the New York City Office of Management and Budget and the D.C. Policy Center. Rebecca earned her master’s degree in applied economics from Johns Hopkins University. She has also participated as a mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program.

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Rockey, Rebecca
Evita Salles
’03 Spanish

Evita is an active duty U.S. Navy Commander who has amassed more than twenty years of diverse experience in the military and private sector. She currently serves as an assistant professor at National Defense University in Washington, DC. She began her naval career in the aviation community followed by the public affairs community. She is currently a human resources officer with experience in personnel management, policy, talent management, training and development, and DEIB. Prior to joining the Navy, Evita worked in consumer lending, real estate, and marketing. Evita is an accomplished public speaker who rocked the “red dot” on the TEDx stage and coaches TEDx speakers. In addition to her Penn State degree, Evita holds various master’s degrees and a doctorate in interdisciplinary leadership from Creighton University. She is also SPHR and SHRM-CP certified. She enjoys traveling, writing, and spending time with her two kids, ages 11 and 9. She is passionate about inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves.

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Salles, Evita
Mary Claire Schneider
’15 Economics, Human Development and Family Studies

Mary Claire has worked at Deloitte for eight years. She currently serves as a senior program specialist, supporting client leader community and development at Deloitte. She previously worked at Deloitte as a consultant, supporting state government clients on large technology transformations. Mary Claire serves as a mentor in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Erik, and 1-year-old daughter, Lucy.

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Schneider, Mary Claire
Colleen Smith
’12 History

In 2016, Colleen joined Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia, the only all-boys charter school in Pennsylvania, where she currently leads as the chief operating officer. She earned her master of science degree in education from Johns Hopkins University while participating in Teach for America as a science teacher in Baltimore. Since then, Colleen has focused her efforts on advancing educational equity in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Colleen taught in Baltimore for three years and led professional development for science teachers across the city. Colleen has also served on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Education, advising masters candidates on the development of their digital portfolios, the capstone of their graduate degree. Colleen serves on the Mayor of Philadelphia Millennial Advisory Committee and volunteers with area nonprofits that support young people.

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Smith, Colleen
Leah Triola
’09 Communication Arts and Sciences

Leah is the senior director of football operations and administration at the National Football League (NFL). In her role, she is responsible for overseeing the administration of the collective bargaining agreements for the NFL game officials and replay officials; managing various league policies that are designed to protect the competitive equity and integrity of the game, including oversight of compliance and disciplinary review; as well as creating internal processes and procedures to ensure operational efficiency. Prior to the NFL, Leah worked as a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney at Shelly Law Offices in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Leah graduated from Widener University Delaware Law School in 2012.

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Triola, Leah
Dionne Whitby
’11 International Politics

Dionne is an international program specialist for the Office of International and Interagency Affairs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She provides international human exploration policy, agreement, and engagement support to NASA’s chief health and medical officer; chief of safety and mission assurance; and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket, and Exploration Ground Systems programs. As division lead for Canada and the State Department, she facilitates space cooperation with the Canadian Space Agency. Prior to working at NASA, Dionne spent ten years working for the Department of Defense supporting international military security assistance and cooperation programs for more than seventy countries. She received two Joint Civilian Service Medals. Dionne was a 2009 Boren Scholar who spent a year learning Arabic in Jordan. She received her master of arts degree in strategic security studies from the National Defense University.

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Whitby, Dionne
Stephanie Yoon
’08 French, International Studies, Advertising/Public Relations

Stephanie Yoon has more than thirteen years of experience in managing initiatives on behalf of the public and corporate sector. She currently serves as the director of operations for the Campaign and Creative Services team at a political consulting firm. She was previously at American Express, where she served in multiple leadership roles and most recently as the vice president of strategic planning in the Enterprise Services division. She also held roles at Save the Children, the Mayor’s Office of Philadelphia, Secretary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and in the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama. Stephanie was a triple major at Penn State and received her master’s degree in International Law from New York University.

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Yoon, Stephanie
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