BGSU Class of 2019 has developed lifelong skills, friends
Checking in with five students we first met as freshmen in August 2015
By Amber Stark ’99
The price of milk hasn’t changed much since 2015. Neither has a gallon of gas. But the lives of the 4,000-plus students expected to graduate from Bowling Green State University this year have changed dramatically in the last four years.
They’ve made lifelong friends, tried new activities, visited new countries and developed skills to take into the workforce or the next phase of their education.
We recently checked in with five students we first met in August of 2015 as they prepare for May’s commencement. Read on to learn about the Class of 2019’s educational and personal journeys.
Hannah Cubberley can pinpoint the exact moment she knew BGSU wanted her to be a Falcon.
“As soon as I stepped onto the Bowling Green campus, I felt immediately welcomed and the feeling was truly unique and unlike my previous visits to other colleges,” she said. “The admissions staff met me with warm smiles and enthusiastic greetings as though they knew I was home before I even knew for myself. I had found the university that would foster my education, creativity, leadership skills and offer countless remarkable opportunities for personal growth.”
That moment made such an impact on Cubberley that she became an Honors College Ambassador, welcoming future Falcons to their new home.
“The thing that sets BGSU apart is that people care deeply about our Falcon Family, and there is always someone there to offer support and make you feel like you belong,” she said.
In some ways, Cubberley has always belonged at BGSU. Her parents are Falcon Flames and some of her childhood memories include visits to campus.
“I fondly remember attending BGSU hockey games with my parents and running around Anderson Arena looking for Frieda Falcon so I could give her a huge hug,” she said.
In her various roles on campus, Cubberley has since taken many photos with Freddie and Frieda Falcon. She joined Delta Zeta sorority, participated in or led four BG Alternative Break trips and she and her best friend, Samantha Steirer, were on the 2018 Homecoming Court.
“But my key involvements have been with the Marvin Center for Student Leadership and Undergraduate Student Government,” she said. “I was so humbled and excited to have been selected to be the voice of undergraduate students at BGSU.
“Because of my involvement, I have felt connected to the University and I have been able to make a positive difference in the lives of my peers through advocacy and student leadership development.”
Despite being involved in so many University activities, Cubberley will graduate with not one, or even two degrees in May. Instead, she will take her education in political science, Spanish and communication with her as she pursues a career influencing public policy in politics.
“I would love to move to Washington, D.C., after I graduate to gain some experience with think tanks or a political consulting agency,” she said. “I also have plans to further my education by either pursing a Master of Public Policy or attending law school.
“I have learned so much both inside and outside of the classroom that I am confident I will one day have the career of my dreams, thanks to BGSU.”
Cubberley highlighted several University resources and employees for fostering her growth and drive, including the C. Raymond Marvin Center for Student Leadership, the Honors College and the Learning Commons.
In 2015, as she was touring college campuses, Mary Fleck was considering a major in journalism. But acceptance into the STEM scholarship program Academic Investment in Math and Science (AIMS) changed her trajectory toward mathematics.
Luckily, the change in major didn’t change her decision to come to BGSU. If anything, it solidified it.
“AIMS encouraged me to get involved in undergraduate research, and after discovering data science applications for an astronomy research project my freshman year, I decided to pick up the data science specialization,” said Fleck, who has a minor in Spanish.
Fleck will continue this path in graduate school.
“I was accepted to study data science for public policy in a highly competitive and top-ranked master’s program next year with the intention of leveraging my computational knowledge and passion for service to others to affect data-driven social justice,” she said. “If not for the well-rounded education I received at BGSU and through the Honors College, I wouldn’t be the robust thinker that I am today, and that is so powerful.”
Fleck’s experiences at BGSU included involvement in a number of service-based organizations such as the Student Alumni Ambassadors and Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority. She also received an Alumni Laureate Scholarship, which connects students who are driven to become effective leaders and make the world a better place.
“Through these organizations and other campus experiences, I was able to make a difference in my community while forming a community of my own,” she said. “My BGSU community has encouraged me to live with purpose and develop my passions, which has led to countless exciting and unique opportunities from singing the national anthem at BGSU sporting events to taking classes on poverty, rock music and ice skating to pursuing nationally competitive research opportunities.
“The University’s investment in my personhood has shaped who I am and how I will influence the world.”
People might not know his name, but mention “the guy with the orange shoes” and many can picture him. Van Wright, assistant to the vice president for enrollment management, has encouraged hundreds of students to choose BGSU, including senior Scott Knapke.
“My siblings, all four of whom attended and graduated from BGSU, were great resources for finding out information about BGSU, but I have to credit Van Wright for showcasing all that BGSU has to offer and for acting as a direct contact to the University,” Knapke said.
Knapke said one of the many highlights of his first visit to campus was meeting mathematics education faculty, many of whom he said he’s grown close to during his time at BGSU. An adolescence to young adult integrated mathematics education major, he is well on his way to reaching his career goal of becoming a math educator. He is currently student teaching at Liberty-Benton High School in Findlay.
“BGSU’s coursework and field-based experiences throughout various schools in the area enabled me to continue to grow fond of and maintain a passion for mathematics education,” he said. “While my overall career goal is to become a math educator, this goal comes with many other goals that pertain to the way in which my students learn in my classroom. I will strive to always have the highest belief in their own abilities. I will aim to act as a support system and mentor for every one of my students, just as I was provided with countless support systems throughout my time at BGSU.”
Knapke’s time at BGSU included being an Alumni Laureate Scholar, participating in the Science and Math Education in ACTION Program and being a member and leadership member of the Bowling Green Council of Teachers of Mathematics (BGCTM).
“My involvement that stands out the most to me, however, is with BGSU’s student-led Math Camp, where we strive to instill in students a growth mindset when engaging in mathematical learning and working through problem solving and team-building activities,” Knapke said. “This organization provided me with countless leadership opportunities and a family-like community of individuals with whom I have established lasting bonds.
Additionally, this organization took me to places across the country and around the world, including Thailand, China, Oklahoma, and numerous schools throughout Ohio, so we were able to share our passions and ideas with diverse individuals.”
Knapke will begin BGSU’s Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Teaching in the fall.
It is not uncommon for first-generation college students to have unique fears as they navigate higher education. But after finding a welcoming and supportive community at BGSU, Detroit native Alisa Sledge jumped into college and never looked back.
“My first real interaction with students on BGSU’s campus was during the BGSU Detroit overnight stay during my senior year of high school,” she said. “I was surrounded by a group of other Detroit
students also interested in BGSU. We toured campus, stayed in residence halls for the night, and ate in the dining halls. I was totally immersed into the college life for a day and I loved it.”
An invitation to participate in the Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy, a four-year leadership development program that engages scholars in classes, workshops, experiential learning and community service activities, was part of the reason Sledge chose BGSU, but not the only reason.
“BGSU has a very welcoming community, which was one of my main reasons for choosing this school. Every time I came to visit I was always greeted with smiling faces,” she said. “And the amount of resources offered here is exceptional. There is always someone that can help you in any situation you may be in. Never be afraid to ask for help or where to find help because someone can always direct you to an answer or resource.”
A business major with a specialization in international business, Sledge had heard about the College of Business’s reputation before ever stepping foot on campus.
“My life goal is to be a successful business woman,” she said. ”I also hope to start a nonprofit to mentor young girls from inner cities such as Detroit. I want to be able to inspire young ladies to reach their goals and encourage them to go to college.”
During her time here, Sledge was a mentee and mentor of SMART (Students of Color Mentoring, Aiding, Retaining, and Teaching) and a member of the National Association of Black Accountants and the Student Budget Committee.
“Being a part of all of these organizations and programs helped me to become the leader that I am today,” she said. “They all challenged me in different ways to help me grow as an individual and as a leader. I am grateful to have been a part of these organizations and to have been able to give back to the BGSU community.”
Buy a windbreaker.
That’s the advice Phillip Zulli wishes someone had given him in the fall of 2015, when he set foot on campus as a freshman.
“Luckily for me, the constant wind wasn’t enough to deter me,” he said.
Zulli, a public relations major from Cincinnati with a black windbreaker, has had an active four years at BGSU. It began with an invitation to participate in the Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy, a four-year leadership development program that engages scholars in classes, workshops, experiential learning and community service activities. He has also managed marketing and social media efforts for Falcon eSports and University Activities Organization, and is assistant firm director for Falcon Communications, a student public relations firm on campus.
“All of these experiences have prepared me academically and professionally,” he said. “I probably could not have found these awesome opportunities anywhere else, and even if I could, it wouldn’t be with the same awesome people I met here at BGSU.
“BGSU is definitely a good standard for what a university experience should be like. It has set me up for success; I’m ready to put it all to good use.”
One of Zulli’s most memorable experiences was a two-week study abroad trip to Paris with the Department of Journalism and Public Relations.
“We had the opportunity to meet a lot of individuals who have made a significant mark on journalism or public relations all around the world,” he said. “We also had a lot of time to explore Paris and all of its sights. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from all of the speakers.”