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Engineering student, Samantha Polons in classroom

Student Profile

Penn State New Kensington engineering student Samantha Polons was selected as the 2012-13 recipient of the Frederick J. Berger Scholarship Award by the Tau Alpha Pi engineering honor society.

Polons, a senior electro-mechanical engineering technology major, was recognized for academic excellence and community service. The $500 scholarship is named after Frederick Berger, founder of the national society for students in engineering technology. Berger endowed the award at Penn State 15 years ago.

“Samantha has consistently excelled in her academics while serving as an officer for not just Tau Alpha Pi, but other clubs on campus,” said Joan Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering and faculty adviser for the society. “She has undertaken several research projects as an honors option and presented her research at the annual Research and Creative Exposition that is held on campus every spring semester.”

Excellence in academics has been Polons’ calling card since arriving on campus in fall 2010. She studies in the Honors program, researches as a member of the campus’ Chancellor’s Fellows program, and interns at Premier Automation in Monroeville. In addition, she works a half-time job during the school year and full-time during the summer. Her community service includes working with WEDIG (Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth) to help revitalize Westmoreland county.

“I am responsible for a large part of my educational expenses, so the scholarship helps to reduce the amount of student loans and the time I need to work during the semester, so I can spend more time on my classes,” said Polons, a product of Plum High School.

Polons covers tuition with a combination of scholarships, stipends, salary, loans and help from her parents. Despite the workload, she will graduate in May, earning her bachelor’s degree a year ahead of schedule. She carries a 4.0 grade-point average.

“I am trying to minimize the amount of post-graduate debt I will incur,” said Polons, who each year has received the top engineering award for her class. “With this in mind, I have taken heavy credit loads each semester in order to complete my degree in three instead of four years.”

Polons credits the fellowship and internship programs as the incentives for her to enroll at the New Kensington campus to earn an engineering degree. Faculty and staff draw praise for their support of her academic quests.

“I chose Penn State to earn an engineering degree, and the New Kensington campus to provide academic opportunities,” said Polons, an officer for the Engineering and Science student clubs. “The class sizes are small and personal. The teachers are knowledgeable and accommodating, and the assistance with internship opportunities was helpful and abundant. I work hard, but without the help of the teachers and administration, I would not be able to graduate in three years.”

Attending Penn State New Kensington may have been not so much of a choice, as a tradition. The Polons women, Samantha’s mother and two sisters, all attended the campus for two or four years before earning their Penn State degrees. The Polons men, her father and brother, are Penn State alumni but did not follow the New Kensington route, opting instead for four years at the University Park campus.

After graduating in May, Polons hopes to change her classification at Premier Automation from intern to employee. Premier is an engineered solutions company that specializes in providing automation, drive, and electrical control solutions and services to industrial markets.

For more about the Electro-Mechanical Engineering technology program, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/emet

EMET Alumni, Branden Citeroni at work

Alumni Profile

From securing convoys in Iraq to earning a bachelor’s degree in Upper Burrell to designing automated controls in Washington Township, Branden Citeroni drew upon global and local resources and extracted valuable experiences.

Citeroni, a U.S. Army veteran and Penn State New Kensington alumnus, parlayed his knack for learning and passion for knowledge into a career as an automation engineer for Industrial Automation and Control Inc. His military service as a mechanic charted the course for his degree in engineering. His Bachelor of Science in Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology was complemented by an internship in his chosen discipline. The internship morphed into a full-time position. Throughout the three-pronged career process -- military, college, vocation – Citeroni utilized experiences in each endeavor to lay the foundation for his vocation.

The Pittsburgh resident served in the Army for four years, including a one-year tour in Iraq in 2005. His unit was in charge of convoy security for base supplies. He rose to the rank of Specialist, or E-4 in Army parlance, and was honorably discharged in 2007.

“My military experience prepared me for an engineering career,” said Citeroni, a mechanic who worked on the unit’s Humvees and five-ton pickup trucks. “The military teaches attention to detail, and I have found that to be a very valuable trait with engineering.”

Armed with the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and an interest in electro-mechanical engineering, Citeroni enrolled at Penn State New Kensington. He chose the New Kensington campus for its small classes, easy access to faculty, and the “real-world” educational opportunities, espoused by campus faculty, which included taking the lessons in the classroom out into the workforce.

“I benefitted from a very hands-on education that prepared me for working very closely with other engineers,” said Citeroni, a native of Latrobe, Pa. “I met a lot of working professionals as well as sales and manufacturing professionals.”

Citeroni also availed himself of the learning resources at the campus, such as Math 97, a one-credit class that provided tutoring and mentoring for all levels of mathematics classes. Mathematics is a staple of engineering classes. In Math 97, Citeroni was given an opportunity to ask questions about concepts from earlier levels of math that were crucial to succeeding in higher-level engineering courses.

“I took the class because I had been out of school for a few years and wanted to brush up on my skills,” said Citeroni, who twice earned the College of Engineering award at the annual Academic and Student Achievement Awards ceremony. “I learned a lot, built a solid mathematical foundation, and finished with the confidence I needed to move forward in the engineering program. Also, the class allowed me to work very closely with my professors and earn their respect.”

"Branden’s perseverance for learning was clearly manifested through the math courses he took with me, including MATH 97,” said Javier Gomez-Calderon, professor of mathematics at the campus.

His engineering acumen landed him an internship with Industrial Automation and Control, a company that brought him onboard after he graduated with distinction in May. Robert “Doc” Mueller, associate professor of engineering at the campus, was the conduit for the internship and the job. Mueller teaches upper-level courses in electro-mechanical engineering and lower-level courses in computer engineering technology, and he is the founder of Industrial Automation and Control, a consulting firm that provides engineering solutions for control system problems. The company is located in the Westmoreland County Business and Research Park on Pennsylvania State Route 780, about four miles from campus.

“I hired Branden as an intern because he was a very good student,” said Mueller, who spent more than 30 years in the private industry working with industrial control systems. “I hired him after he graduated because he demonstrated a great work ethic during his internship and while he was working on his senior project. Smart guys with a great work ethic are hard to beat.”

Citeroni and his wife, Janice, have been married for six years and are active in the community. Both volunteer at Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley.