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Meet the College of Arts and Sciences’ Newest Forever Dragons



May 22, 2019

They’ve found their intellectual passions, expanded their worldviews, made friends and memories — and now they’re ready to turn their tassels! Members of the graduating class of 2019 share their advice, Philly faves, memories and more before they head off on their next adventure.

Check back in the days leading up to Commencement for more graduating student profiles!

Cassidy Ally, BS CRIMINOLOGY & JUSTICE STUDIES

Cassidy Ally, Drexel Criminology and Justice Studies Major

Major: Criminology & Justice Studies
Concentration: Justice Policy
Hometown: New York, New York

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to become comfortable in my own skin and proud of who I am.

Best course you took and why:
The best course I took at Drexel was probably Crime Mapping I and II. It gave me a chance to study the ArcGIS program (an interactive mapping software), which I found incredibly helpful for figuring out my career path.

Read More About Cassidy

One thing you love about Philly:
My favorite thing about Philly is all of the incredible food places and options of open space to sit and lounge or do work.

A lesson you learned in college:
The most important lesson I learned in college was the fact that failure is okay; as long as you come out on top and fix your mistakes, everything will work out.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
A professor who influenced me was the late Dr. Julia Hall. She helped me figure out that criminology was the right plan of study for me. She also gave me life advice.

Your plans after Drexel:
I’m going to take a few months off to travel through the U.K. and Asia and then start working (hopefully as a criminal analyst!).

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
My biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to reach out for help. Whether it be from professors in classes you are struggling in or an advisor or even seeing the Drexel counselors. People are here to help you out and no one wants to see you struggle or fail.

Kelly Bergh, MA Publishing

Kelly Bergh, Drexel MA in Publishing

Major: MA Publishing
Hometown: Malvern, Pennsylvania

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
I am most proud of my ability to make use of Drexel’s interdisciplinary structure. I took classes across four different Drexel colleges within the 18 months it took me to earn my degree! I met professors and students I otherwise would not have, and honed skills I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to use in a classroom after undergrad.

Best course you took and why:
I really enjoyed my Small Press Development class. Not only did we get to explore traditional bookbinding practices, but as a class we developed pieces that have since been published!

Read More About Kelly

One thing you love about Philly:
I love that Philadelphians are so proud of our city. We always want to share the places we eat, work out, and go out with others so they can appreciate them, too!

A lesson you learned in college:
I learned that developing relationships with friends and people you want to work with requires a lot of maintenance. Being a good friend and work partner takes a lot of effort, but it’s almost always worth it.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
Dr. Valerie Fox in the English and philosophy department served as the absolute best liaison during my publishing program. Not only is she kind and supportive of creative endeavors, but she also has included me on projects with organizations that have expanded my resume.

Your plans after Drexel:
I am currently working as a freelance copywriter, though I am considering taking on a full-time role with an existing client or two!

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Drexel is a big school for those who want a big school, but it can be a small school for those who seek to develop personal relationships with professors and other students. It really is the best of both worlds.

Kerrivah Heard, BA/MS Communication

Kerri Heard, Drexel Communication Major

Major: BA/MS Communication
Concentration: Journalism
Minor: Sociology
Hometown: Philadelphia

Kerri will address the Class of 2019 as the Drexel College of Arts and Sciences Commencement student speaker.

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
How much I’ve been able to grow, both as a scholar and a woman.

Best course you took and why:
So many to choose from. I’d have to say a community-based learning course at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (a prison in Philadelphia) was the best course I’ve taken. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that allowed me to directly assist a vulnerable population. I was able to teach and learn from them through memoir writing.

Read More About Kerri

One thing you love about Philly:
The food scene! We have great restaurants that make delicious yet affordable food.

A lesson you learned in college:
I actually don’t work better under pressure.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
So many! Everyone I’ve encountered has impacted me somehow — whether they’ve provided me with an opportunity or gave me advice that I used to shape my trajectory. Drexel is full of faculty and staff who want the best for others. Thank you all.

Your plans after Drexel:
Full-time at Comcast corporate, working on their local media development team!

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Take advantage of your professors' knowledge and experience! Chances are they’ve once worked in the industry you’re trying to enter.

Kyle Howey, BA English

Kyle Howey, Drexel English Major

Major: English
Hometown: Ocean City, New Jersey

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
I am most proud of the work I’ve done with Writers Room, one of the most important and encouraging organizations for cultivating my passions in storytelling and creativity at this school.

Best course you took and why:
The best course I took was an online anthropology course called Social Mapping, which introduced me to a more articulate way of viewing myself in terms of cultural conditioning. It was one of many favorite courses, through which I’ve become more aware and more attuned to valuable methods of understanding, analysis and reasoning.

Read More About Kyle

One thing you love about Philly:
One thing I love about Philly is that I am constantly exploring the city, and there is always something new to find. Even after these four years in the city, I feel like there’s still so much I have yet to see and do.

A lesson you learned in college:
A lesson I learned in college is that you must be uncompromising as a student when it comes to learning independently, finding a satisfying path, and powering through any difficulties along the way. I feel as though I’ve come to know the true value of priority.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
Kirsten Kaschock, PhD, in the Department of English and Philosophy

Your plans after Drexel:
I plan to continue my path as a writer in various fields and genres of media. My most immediate aspiration is to find experience in publishing, so that I might be able to help others write books and bring dream projects to reality.

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Keep yourself constantly in check as a student. Question your decisions before you make them, as you make them, after you make them. Cherish the time you have, because it is infinitely more valuable than money or material wealth. But be resilient in your efforts. Do not compromise your passions, especially when you know deep down that you embody more than one thing.

Erin Katz, BS Chemistry

Erin Katz, Drexel Chemistry Major

Major: Chemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Hometown: Mount Laurel, New Jersey

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
My involvement in student organizations like Drexel Sierra Club and Dragon Flow Arts Collective.

Best course you took and why:
Qualitative Organic Chemistry — even though the lab was all day on Saturdays. It was really thought provoking and exciting. Each student was given a unique set of six mystery compounds, and we had almost the entire lab at our disposal to figure out what each compound was. We also had to synthesize/purify two derivatives from each compound. Professor Wambsgans was the perfect teacher for the class.

Read More About Erin

One thing you love about Philly:
FOOD! I’m a huge foodie. My friends and I love going out to eat in Philly.

A lesson you learned in college:
Pain is temporary, GPA is forever. But … it is very important to take mental health breaks and give yourself well-deserved rest and personal time, no matter how busy you are.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
My research advisor, Dr. Peter DeCarlo, is a major reason why I’m interested in atmospheric chemistry and pursuing a PhD.

Your plans after Drexel:
I’m taking a gap year to work on scientific publications for a research project I was involved in during my final co-op. The research project, called “HOMEChem,” was about indoor air quality. In fall 2020, I’ll be starting grad school at UC Berkeley in the chemistry PhD program, and doing research in atmospheric chemistry.

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Get involved in student organizations. They are a great way to meet people with similar interests!

Ayush Parikh, BS Biological Sciences

Ayush Parikh, Drexel Biology Major

Major: Biological Sciences
Concentration: Cells, Molecules, Genetics and Biochemistry
Minor: Art History and Business Administration
Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
My time at Drexel has been filled with many memorable moments, but I am most proud of the personal growth I experienced while in Philadelphia. I came into Drexel as an ambitious student with ambiguous interests, unsure of what I was interested in. However, over the years, I found my groove — finding joy volunteering in the community as a tutor and EMT, performing research at the College of Medicine, and dancing for Drexel Dandiya (Drexel’s premier Raas Garba dance team). I found new passions in art history, cooking and exploring Philly, and haven’t looked back since!

Read More About Ayush

Best course you took and why:
Art of India, hands down. The course was taught by Dr. Brancaccio in Westphal, who always gave 110 percent effort for her students. What made this class extra special, however, was its relevance to my culture as an Indian American. Learning about important landmarks, monuments, temples and works of art that I had previously seen firsthand made them that much more memorable and meaningful. It was exciting to put my memories in a newfound historical and cultural context, and it has made subsequent trips to India that much more exciting!

One thing you love about Philly:
The mentality of the city’s people! In Philadelphia, the motto “work hard, play hard” is a thread that weaves through the fabric of the city. There’s this persistent attitude to roll up your sleeves and get to work, and I loved having that as a motivator as I progressed through my academic journey at Drexel.

A lesson you learned in college:
Biggest lesson was that it really is not the end of the world when you make a mistake. Whether it was screwing up a research experiment, performing poorly on an exam, or generally letting things slip out of hand, I realized that it’s only through our mistakes that we learn the most!

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
This is a tough question because of numerous excellent professors and staff members who mentored and supported me. From CoAS, Dr. Susan Gurney in the bio department was a huge part of my success! Whether it was writing a recommendation letter or giving general life advice, she always made time to meet and mentor me.

Your plans after Drexel:
I’m currently on a five week abroad trip to India and Thailand, and I will be returning in August to start at Harvard Medical School!

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown! College is the time to take risks and to explore new experiences in all facets of life. Take classes that interest you, go to restaurants that entice you, join clubs that appeal to your interests, and the list goes on. You might fail in some of these endeavors, but at least you learned something new and were able to grow in the process!

Ryder White, BS Environmental Science

Ryder White, Drexel Environmental Science Major

Major: Environmental Science
Concentration: Ecology & Conservation
Hometown: Portland, Maine

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
My co-op experiences!

Best course you took and why:
Tree of Life, learning about the origin of life and the interconnectedness of various life forms today

Read More About Ryder

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
Prof. Gelhaus, a BEES professor and entomology curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Your plans after Drexel:
I’m hoping to go into renewable energy or environmental education.

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Get off campus and explore the city!

April Witherspoon, BS PSYCHOLOGY

April Witherspoon, Drexel Psychology Major

Major: Psychology
Hometown: Philadelphia

A lesson you learned in college:
I learned that the only thing stopping me from getting ahead is myself. My support system and professors were cheering me on throughout my long journey. I was slowing myself down because of nerves and being self-conscious. Once I realized I belonged, I did what I needed to do to get to the finish line.

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
I am most proud of my GPA, and the hard work I’ve done. Most of the courses were very challenging, especially math! I put my math courses off until the last possible moment, because I stink when it comes to anything beyond Algebra I. That has always been the case. I managed to complete all math courses with a respectable passing grade. I even got an A in one course!

Read More About April

I am a little late to the ballgame when it comes to graduating, but I ploughed through!

Best course you took and why:
It’s hard to decide which course was my favorite! I will say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the physics course I took with Professor Scheidly. By no means am I great at physics, but Professor Sheidly made the course interesting for every type of learner. He also was understanding and very helpful. I even went to see the planet Saturn at Night Skies in the Observatory, a stargazing event at the Franklin Institute. That was something I probably would have never done had it not been assigned. It really blew my mind!

I also have to say every class I took with Dr. Marlin Killen was amazing. She really took the time to make her lectures as enjoyable as any professor could. She was also forgiving and flexible if we needed help or an extension. She really wanted her students to succeed!

One thing you love about Philly:
The food!! Philly is so diverse, so the food options are endless! I looooove to eat, so this works out great for me!!

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
A couple of years ago, my Readings in Fiction professor, Gail Rosen, sent me a very nice email with a special request. She asked for my permission to use an essay I had submitted for my final. Professor Rosen wanted her current students to use it as an example of how the assignment should be done.

That request meant so much to me, as when I was younger, I struggled to put just one meaningful paragraph together. And writing an entire paper was torture! I felt as though I had finally arrived. I had finally found a way to express my thoughts in a clear and concise way, and had been recognized for my effort. I mean, a PROFESSOR, who teaches a reading/writing course for a living, AND is an editor, wanted to use MY paper as example???!! That request gave me the validation I needed. I will never forget that feeling I felt when I read her email.

Your plans after Drexel:
Onward and upward!! I plan to go after my master’s degree this fall as a Drexel student. Once I get my master’s, who knows, maybe a few more years down the road people will be calling me Dr. Witherspoon!

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Plan accordingly when it comes to assignments! If an assignment is to be completed by a certain date, make sure you do the research first, and have a clear understanding of what is expected. I once waited until the last minute to start working on an assignment, and found it was way more involved than I thought.

Don’t just look at the due date. Sometimes professors give you weeks to get an assignment done… that’s for a reason! Plan ahead, and maybe do parts of the assignment each week leading up to the due date, so you’re not scrambling to get it done. Trust me, it works!

Halleli Zacher, BA Sociology

Halleli Zacher, Drexel Sociology Major

Major: Sociology
Minor: Women’s and Gender Studies
Hometown: Long Grove, Illinois

What are you most proud of from your time at Drexel?
I am most proud of my first co-op at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). There, I found my passion for civil liberties and nonprofit work. It was an amazing experience that has forwarded my passion for political action, and my career goals.

Best course you took and why:
I took a course called Imaging Multiple Democracies in which we not only learned where democracy came from, but also discussed whether we are truly living in it. It was amazing to learn about something that I thought was real but is more of a theoretical concept. My professor, Dr. Mary Ebeling, also allowed us to explore our ideas and grapple with difficult concepts. She always encouraged us to question her and the material we were reading so that we could form our own opinions.

Read More About Halleli

One thing you love about Philly:
Philly has some of the most amazing vegan restaurants! HipCityVeg is one of my favorites, and I don’t think I could live without the buffalo crispy ranch chick’n sandwich.

A lesson you learned in college:
How to be truly independent. I went abroad my sophomore year and learned so much about myself, how to go outside my comfort zone and explore the unexplored.

A professor or staff member who influenced you:
Professor Ebeling has been so influential to me over the last four years. I took a class with her during freshman year and senior year, and both times I learned so much. She is one of those teachers who is along for the ride in your learning and growing as a student. As a sociologist, you have to question the ideas of those who came before you to create your own new ideas, and she encouraged and nurtured us to do just that.

Halleli Zacher and Mary Ebeling, PhD, at 2019 CoAS Honor’s Day
Halleli Zacher and Mary Ebeling, PhD, at this year’s Honor’s Day

Your plans after Drexel:
I haven’t quite figured it out yet! I would love to move to Seattle and work for a civil liberties nonprofit. There is a whole wide world out there that’s just waiting for me to explore it, and I plan on doing just that postgrad.

Any advice for incoming Drexel students?
Enjoy your last summer.