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Three Eberly undergraduates among Presidential Leadership Academy 2023 cohort

21 August 2023

Penn State’s Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA) has selected its new cohort of 30 second-year students, including 3 from the Eberly College of Science. It is the 14th group of new PLA members since 2009 when the academy was founded by alumni Edward R. and Helen S. Hintz.

The PLA is designed so that students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are empowered to enhance their critical thinking skills to address complex challenges that arise from a local to a global scale.

This year, 141 students applied to the PLA. Among them, 75 individuals were selected to undergo a comprehensive, two-part interview process, which included both a virtual one-on-one interview and a virtual group interview. After careful evaluation of their critical-thinking ability, communication skills, and diverse perspectives, the group was further refined, resulting in the final selection.

PLA’s 2023 class members come from disciplines that span every academic college at Penn State. Additionally, 13 of the 30 members are enrolled in the Schreyer Honors College.

Outside of their academics, the new PLA members participate in an array of Penn State organizations including; the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, Her Campus at PSU, Mock Trial, IST Diplomats, the Smeal College of Business’s Sapphire Leadership Academic Program, Lion Caucus, THON, Ag Advocates, Global Brigades, Food Recovery Network, Student Red Cross Club, Onward State, the Blue and White Society, TEDxPSU, Nittany Lion Fund, UPUA (University Park Undergraduate Association) and more.

“I’m really looking forward to the multitude of opportunities that PLA offers,” said incoming member Rasha Elwakil, an Earth science and policy major and member of the Millennium Scholars Program. “Whether it’s connecting with the diverse group of new members, expanding my leadership skills, or exploring new opportunities, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the academy.”

The incoming class will begin its PLA journey by taking a seminar class with Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi, which will discuss difficult issues that Penn State and other universities across the nation face. Bendapudi is upholding the tradition of teaching PLA students that was set forth by her University presidential predecessors.

Members of the PLA also participate in a wide variety of programming, including immersive trips to learn from world-class leaders, professional networking opportunities and cultural experiences.

The PLA website offers details for first-year students who are interested in applying for the academy. Those who are carrying a minimum 3.2 GPA are encouraged to review the application requirements ahead of the new application window’s opening in fall 2023.

The newest members of the Presidential Leadership Academy, and their primary academic colleges, are:

  • Nathaniel Ansu — College of Engineering
  • Jayson Archer — College of Engineering
  • Rik Bhattacharyya — College of Engineering
  • Westin Boyd — College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • Shreshty Budakoti — Eberly College of Science
  • Tyler Carlton — College of Business
  • Fabiana Corcino Zegarra — Smeal College of Business
  • Dominic DiFrancesco — Smeal College of Business
  • Rasha Elwakil — College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • Olivia Fisher — Smeal College of Business
  • Charles Irvin — College of Arts and Architecture
  • Josephine James — College of Information Sciences and Technology
  • Megan Kang — Smeal College of Business
  • Sabrina Knox — College of the Liberal Arts
  • Cameron Koch — Eberly College of Science
  • Emmanuel Kraft — College of the Liberal Arts
  • Palmer Moore — Smeal College of Business
  • Nicole Nieves — Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications
  • Marianna Olaya — Eberly College of Science
  • Abigail O'Neill — College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Vraj Patel — College of Engineering
  • Owen Perry — Smeal College of Business
  • Nicholas Peters — College of Arts and Architecture
  • Mayuri Purani — College of the Liberal Arts
  • David Richards — College of Information Sciences and Technology
  • Christian Roach — College of Engineering
  • Litzy Sandoval — College of Education
  • Emmaleigh Shinno — College of Engineering
  • Clarissa Theiss — College of the Liberal Arts
  • Christina Wanta — Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications