College awards medals

Julie Balzarini

Recipients of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Medallion were presented with their medals at a ceremony on Nov. 15. The medallion is an annual award given to recognize the accomplishment of select graduates. Department chairs within the College identify the recipients. The medallion also honors graduates who have demonstrated service to their communities and to the University. Attendees of the ceremony included board members and past recipients. On Nov. 14, medallion recipients participated in a panel discussion in the Connelly Center’s Radnor and St. David’s Rooms. Held for the first time last year, the event gave students an opportunity to hear these distinguished alumni speak about the value of their liberal arts educations.”This is such an incredible event,” said Diane Brocchi, administrative coordinator for the Office of External Relations. “The people who are the recipients have such incredible lives. We thought it would be great for the students to hear about everything and how a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences enhances so many opportunities in your life.”After opening remarks by Dr. Helen Lafferty, each of the six panel members discussed their experiences at Villanova and how they shaped their personal and professional lives. The first recipient to speak was Diane Hansen, who graduated from Villanova in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and minors in both women’s studies and Spanish. After her graduate studies at Loyola College, Hansen became a counseling psychologist at Chesapeake Connections, where she led group therapies, counseling individuals with bipolar disorder and those who were the victims of drug abuse and domestic violence. She recently graduated from the Maryland State Police Trooper Academy.”The communication skills I gained here have helped me throughout my career,” Hansen said.The next recipient to speak was Dr. Dante Scala, a 1990 graduate who earned bachelor’s degrees in political science, philosophy and honors before earning a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Currently, Scala is an associate professor and chair of the political science department at the University of New Hampshire. As a political scientist, he has conducted hundreds of interviews with local, national and international media on a wide range of issues.”At Villanova, I learned how to make a good argument out of a very complex reality,” Scala said. “Nowadays, my job as a professor is to try to do what my professors here did for me, which is how to distinguish a good argument from a bad argument. If I have any success out in the wider public world, it’s by remembering what I was taught here, which is blocking out the noise and trying to remember what I know is true.”The next recipient to speak was Karen Rizzo, M.D., F.A.C.S. Rizzo is a 1981 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, having earned a bachelor’s degree in biology magna cum laude. Rizzo was a full-scholarship athlete and a four-year starter on the women’s basketball team. Rizzo currently practices medicine at Otolaryngology Physicians of Lancaster and serves as president of the Lancaster County Medical Society.Rizzo discussed her unique experience as a student athlete. “Everyone here was always flexible and reassuring to me as a student athlete,” Rizzo said. “I felt a true sense of cooperation about trying to make it work for me.” Rizzo’s advice for science students was to be sure to take many liberal arts courses. “They will make you better-rounded as a person,” she said.The next panelist to speak was Ryan Costello, who graduated magna cum laude in 2004 with bachelor’s degrees in English and political science with a concentration in honors and a minor in Chinese. Costello studied at the University of Cambridge, Wolfson College, under an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, earning a Master’s of Philosophy in Chinese economy and management in 2006. He currently serves as a special assistant in the Office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. in Washington D.C. “Instead of trying to figure out exactly what path you need to take in college, use Villanova to sample different types of knowledge and elements of life,” Costello said. “I thank Villanova very much for the foundation it has given me and plan to keep it very close to my heart as I move forward.”The next recipient to speak was Jean Ruttenberg, who earned a master’s in education/elementary counseling in 1976. She has been the mental health director for the School District of Philadelphia and has served as the executive director of The Center for Autism since 1985. “As a graduate student, I was seeking a certain kind of experience,” Ruttenberg said. “I wanted to be challenged. I wanted that blend of service and excellence, where professors knew how academia meshed with reality. That’s what I was looking for, and I absolutely experienced it here.”The final recipient to speak was Dr. Aaron M. Bauer, a professor of biology at Villanova since 1988 and the director of the graduate program in biology. Due to his impressive publication record, Bauer received the University’s Outstanding Faculty Research Award five years ago. “It’s been a positive experience overall,” Bauer said about his teaching career at Villanova. “I came being very focused, and what I found at Villanova that I really enjoyed professionally was, although the atmosphere was rigorous, it was an atmosphere of permissiveness and one could explore different areas.”Lafferty closed the panel discussion with a reminder of how the panelists illustrate all the College has to offer. “I’m sure you can see why these panelists are so important,” Lafferty said. “They remind us how the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has really been the foundation of the University.”The panelists then responded to several questions from those in attendance. A reception followed, giving students the opportunity to network with these notable alumni.