Commencement Stories 2019
The class of 2019 has concluded their Northern journey. We invite you to hear from a few of them as they share how they have grown from then to now.
Blake Pitstick, PharmD '19
When pharmacy major Blake Pitstick first started at ONU, he thought six years of pharmacy school sounded like a long time, but it ended up going much faster than he thought.
His first impression of ONU set the bar high, and his opinion of the University only continued to grow from there. Even as a prospective student, he was recognized and called by name. He could sense that, although diverse in nature, ONU is a community of people who are all dedicated to the development of self and service to others. There was no way he could pass up the opportunity to be part of such a family.
Blake will head to the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy for a post-graduate year 1 residency, where he will be working in an ambulatory care setting and instructing Ohio State students in their pharmacy curriculum. He’s excited to build on his ONU pharmacy education and take that next step toward his dream.
What he will miss most about ONU is definitely the people. From the students he befriended in the residence halls on freshman move-in day, whom he still counts among his closest college friends, to the faculty and staff who have mentored him and fostered his love for the profession of pharmacy, each person who has influenced him will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Ohio Northern is truly a special place that has attracted some of the most incredible people that I have encountered in my life,” he says. “Although upset that I will be leaving some of these people behind, I look forward to seeing some of the amazing things that my fellow classmates and colleagues will accomplish in their respective careers.”
Victoria Middlebrooks, BA '19
Victoria "Tori" Middlebrooks has always had a knack for connecting with people. It is part of the reason why she chose to major in public relations, and it’s a big reason why she was able to contribute so much to Ohio Northern as a student fundraiser during her time here.
As a phone-a-thon caller for ONU’s Advancement Division, Tori connected with scores of alumni over the years. During these conversations, she would share how alumni support made an ONU education a possibility for her, just as it does for a majority of ONU students. To her, it was more than a job. It was a chance to share her passion and to remind the former students on the other end of the line how wonderful it is to be a Polar Bear.
“The biggest thing I learned while attending ONU was the importance of building and maintaining relationships. This advice has landed me internships, leadership opportunities on campus, and lifelong mentors and friends. And, I think it is why I was able to raise $185,000 for the Northern Fund,” she says.
With graduation under her belt, Tori is looking to build new relationships in the world of fundraising. She wants to ensure that people everywhere understand the importance of philanthropy and the very real impact it has on real people. To her, the phrase Polar Bear Up means to have your community’s back and to be there to help everyone experience success, and it’s something she intends to do for a long time after donning her cap and gown.
Stephen Coakley, BFA '19
When musical theatre major Stephen Coakley, a Virginia native, first looked at colleges, he thought he wanted to go to the big city, but after one visit to Ohio Northern University, he fell in love with small-town campus life and the personal attention he received from dedicated faculty members.
Since then, he’s been involved in dozens of ONU theatre productions – performing, composing, directing and everything in between. Now, he will head to Grand Lake, Colo., to work at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre during the summer and fall before moving to Chicago to begin auditioning for various productions.
When Stephen puts his fingers to the piano keyboard, it’s almost as if they’re one entity. That’s due, in part, to all of the experience he’s gained at ONU playing, singing and composing with his fellow musical theatre majors, whom he considers like his brothers and sisters. They are what he is going to miss most about being a Polar Bear.
“Don't let the small-town life make you small!” he advises incoming Polar Bears. “Give yourself permission to dream big and do something every day that gets you closer to those dreams. Also, invest in a hammock – it's the most comfortable way to spend time on the Tundra.”
Corey Briggs, BS '19
Exercise physiology major Corey Briggs’ innate energy and passion have not changed since he first came to ONU, but the opportunities he’s had and the connections he’s made have helped him apply that energy and passion into a career path he loves.
Corey will head to the Ohio State University to work as a strength and conditioning intern while also pursuing a master’s degree in sports coaching. His dream is to coach for a Division I college football team – a dream that is within reach, thanks in part, to a life-changing experience last summer working as a strength and conditioning intern for the University of Oregon Ducks football team.
Connections have made all the difference for Corey. If it wasn’t for the professors and coaches at ONU, like Kurt Wilson and Casey Gantt, he never would have pursued coaching as a career. He also learned the value of reaching out to make new connections on his own, which is how he secured his internship in Oregon and landed an intern spot at Ohio State.
“Connect with everyone you ever meet,” he advises future Polar Bears. “The best advice I ever got was to always be a sponge, soak in all the information you get and learn every day. You will never stop learning until you die.”
Jeremy Pratt Jr., BA '19
As the first person in his family to attend college, criminal justice major Jeremy Pratt Jr. has carved out a unique path for himself at ONU. He’s experienced the unexpected over and over again, from his very first day as a Polar Bear to his last as an undergraduate student.
As a freshman, the transition from high school to college was difficult, and he used to go back home to Toledo, Ohio, every weekend. But as he started to form new bonds with students and faculty, he didn’t feel the need to retreat to the familiar as often. Now, those students and faculty have become like family and Ohio Northern has become his second home.
As it so happens, Ada, Ohio, will still be his home for another three years, since he will be attending ONU’s Pettit College of Law. Last year, as part of ONU’s 50-year celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 visit to campus, he participated in a Socratic seminar that discussed relationships between African Americans and police officers. The experience really got him thinking about how he could help children growing up in communities like his own, and after seeking guidance from faculty members and doing an internship with the Toledo Municipal Court, he finally confirmed that he could make the biggest impact as an attorney.
“Develop relationships and create friendships with as many people as possible,” he advises incoming Polar Bears. “Relationships with professors are crucial, because they can be beneficial to your academic success, and they will go out of their way to assist with internships, jobs and writing letters of recommendation. Relationships with other students around campus are important, too, because they are the people that you will see throughout your time at ONU. Getting to know each other will make your ONU experience better.”
Lindsay Walden, BSBA '19
Growing up, family and business were one and the same to management major Lindsay Walden. For 105 years, her family has operated Sheldon Gas Company, Inc., a natural gas distribution company based in Dunkirk, Ohio, and now she will become the fifth generation to take over the reins.
Although she knew this career path was always an option, that didn’t get in the way of her bettering herself through higher education. She knew she had a lot to learn about life, business and people before she would be ready to inherit the family business. That’s why she chose Ohio Northern University’s Dicke College of Business Administration.
ONU didn’t disappoint. Her time here has helped her perfect the art of professional interactions, from how to properly dress, shake hands and eat dinners to how to form meaningful conversations with business professionals at any level. She traveled to Germany with students and faculty to get a new take on business, culture, history and more, and the opportunity to work as an intern for an outside company confirmed that working in the family business was the only career prospect she felt truly passionate about. ONU faculty and staff have been nothing but supportive of her journey throughout.
“ONU gave me the confidence to not be intimidated by any obstacle, professional or personal,” she says. “The Dicke College of Business has given me confidence to go into my family’s business and continue to keep it running for many more generations to come.”
Wil Rankin, BS '19
When his parents left after moving him in freshman year, the first thing exercise physiology major Wil Rankin did was play NCAA football on his Xbox with his roommate. Little did he know that a few short years later, he would be coaching players who would be playing at one of the very same stadiums featured in the video game.
Following his junior year, Wil spent the summer as a strength and conditioning intern with the University of Oregon Ducks football team, and now, he is returning there to do a second internship through the summer and upcoming football season.
A lot has changed since he first became a Polar Bear. He didn’t enjoy school much growing up, and he came to ONU undecided on what he wanted to do with his life. But at ONU, he found camaraderie as a member of the football team, classes and subjects he was passionate about, and high-impact learning opportunities he never thought he could have at a small, rural university.
“#PolarBearUp, to me, encapsulates the grit that it takes for people to come get their degree and have the time of their life while living in a [most likely] way smaller town than they grew up in,” he says. “We are held to a higher standard of education, athletics and leadership because we are Polar Bears.”
Jaymi Horn, BFA '19
When Jaymi Horn’s family drove away after helping her move into her freshman residence hall, she did what many students do – she cried. And now, with graduation under her belt, she still thinks about her family and the special role they play in her life.
As of May 13, that life became different. Jaymi is no longer a college student. She’s now a young professional at the start of an exciting career, one that she credits ONU with helping her begin. From her musical theatre class MT19, to participating in a master class with acclaimed composer, lyricist and musician Andrew Lippa, the opportunities she received at ONU quite possibly changed her life’s path.
“Participating in the Andrew Lippa master class reassured me that pursuing a career in musical theatre is possible. The experience made me realize that I can graduate from college and be a successful performer. It allowed me to look back on my college experience and see that I have grown, not just in talent, but in confidence as well,” she says.
Now, Jaymi sets her sights on the future, beginning with an acting apprenticeship, but she will never forget graduation – when she left King Horn with her diploma in her hand. The first thing she did was hug her parents – and cry.
Georgia Snelling, BSEE '19
Electrical engineering major Georgia Snelling knew ONU was the right place for her ever since she was a freshman in high school. The engineering program has fueled her technical affinities, and the extracurricular activities she’s been involved in elevated her college experience to a whole new level.
She remembers attending her first marching band practice with the ONU drumline – right after her family departed on freshman move-in day. She went on to join a medley of different musical ensembles at ONU – Wind Orchestra, Steel Drum Band, Percussion Ensemble, African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and the Chinese Music Ensemble.
Georgia also participated in ONU’s engineering co-op program, in which she was able to spend a year working in different industries and companies. Thanks to this experience, she was able to figure out what she liked and didn’t like. Now, she’s secured a job working in transportation controls at Walt Disney World, where she will work on projects related to the park's non-attraction-based transportation systems like the monorail, buses and ferry boats.
“The most unexpected thing that happened to me was that I met my best friends and my family away from home,” she says. “My circle of friends has always been there for me and will continue to be there for me after I graduate.”
Caitlin Silva, BA '19
Golfing and teaching – that has been early childhood education major Caitlin Silva’s life for the past four years at ONU. Each has brought a valuable perspective to her student experience, and from the beginning, she knew she was getting much more than just an education at ONU.
What Caitlin will miss most about ONU is being part of the golf team. She remembers joining the team her freshman year and how the upperclassmen immediately helped her acclimate to her new surroundings. It felt more like a second family than an athletic team, and she made some of her fondest memories with her coaches and teammates on and off the course. Even in the offseason, if the mood struck her to hit up the on-campus golf lab, she knew she was only minutes away from a willing golf companion at any given time.
She also took advantage of several high-impact learning opportunities in teaching, including a one-week urban teaching experience in Nashville, Tenn., and a summer internship in which she designed and taught workshops to K-12 educators. Being in an elementary classroom all day, every day for an entire semester of student teaching also helped her grow immensely as a person and as an educator.
“#PolarBearUp means to go one step further – to not just do the minimum, but to put your whole self into what you are doing,” she says. “If you are going to Polar Bear Up, you need to be doing more than the average person, taking pride in what you are doing, and doing it to the very best of your ability because Polar Bears can take on anything thrown their way.”
Adam Grim, BM '19
Music education major Adam Grim has lived about three miles away from Ohio Northern his entire life, so he never dreamed that attending a university just down the road would send him literally all over the world.
The United Kingdom, Ghana, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan – these are some of the places Adam has traveled to during his four years here. None of these trips would’ve been possible without the ONU Department of Music, through which he’s not only gained a world-class education, but also participated in a diverse variety of musical ensembles.
Adam will head to Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., to complete a two-year master’s degree program in percussion performance. He will also draw on his experience teaching and writing music at ONU by working as a graduate assistant in the percussion studio.
He remembers how he felt as a freshman attending his first ONU Marching Band camp. He was nervous, being in a new place and not knowing many people around him. But his nerves subsided when he realized that they all had the same common goal: to make music together. That common goal is what’s been his greatest joy here at ONU.
“I think I will miss the opportunities the most,” he says. “From the little things like having your compositions played by your colleagues, to the big things like being able to lead ensembles and travel the world. Those things are what make ONU special. The music department may be small, but they are worth every penny when it comes to a quality ensemble experience and education for future educators.”