Sally Ghannam, a biology graduate, shares her experiences at Penn State Altoona and with the Schreyer Honors program.
The Schreyer Honors College is Penn State’s University-wide honors program. It comprises a broad set of opportunities for study, research, travel, and scholarly exploration in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The program’s hallmark is an honors thesis that allows students to showcase their diverse intellectual interests in the form of a substantial, independently inspired research or creative project.
Seven Penn State Altoona students graduated this spring from the Schreyer Honors College including Sally Ghannam, who earned a degree in biology. We caught up with Ghannam to ask a few questions about her experiences.
Why did you become involved in the Honors College?
I was a member of the honors program at Penn State Behrend as well as at Penn State Altoona and was interested in participating in undergraduate research and writing an honors thesis. I decided to perform undergraduate research with Dr. Todd Cook at Penn State Behrend and Dr. Edward Levri at Penn State Altoona. Additionally, I found the global perspective of the Schreyer Honors College very intriguing.
What were the advantages of being a Schreyer Honors College student while at Penn State Altoona?
There are many advantages of being a Schreyer Honors College student at Penn State Altoona like small class sizes, receiving tailored instructions, and more personal interactions with professors and other students. Other advantages include having priority registration to schedule classes and various scholarships.
What did you learn about yourself and your abilities from being a Schreyer Scholar?
As a Schreyer Scholar, my time management, teamwork, and communication skills were enhanced as I was very involved both on and off campus in several clubs and organizations including Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society, Biology Club, Scrubs Club, Global Boarders Program, and the International Student Organization. I also took on vital leadership roles such as being a Global Ambassador, president of the Lambda Sigma National Honor Society, vice president of the Organization of Latin American Students, secretary of the Behrend Honors Student Association, and a teaching assistant for German. Moreover, I learned the importance of giving back to the community. I volunteered at the Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home, the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Erie, Linked by Pink, Adopt-A-Highway, and the Anna Shelter. To enhance my academic experience, I was a tutor for several courses in biology, German, writing, and calculus among others.
Overall, how was your experience, and do you feel prepared for the next steps in your education/career?
My experience has been wonderful at Penn State Altoona. I made connections with many students, faculty, and staff and created uncountable, unforgettable memories with my college friends. I graduated in Magna Cum Laude, and I feel very prepared for the next steps in my education.
What is your advice for others considering combining Penn State Altoona and Schreyer Honors College?
I am very thankful for the support and encouragement of my thesis supervisor, academic adviser, honors adviser, and thesis second reader. I recommend students work in close contact with the faculty and staff at Penn State Altoona and the Schreyer Honors College to maintain good work ethic and ensure that all the requirements are met ahead of time.
Ghannam’s honors thesis, "Determining the Optimal Substrate for the Invasive New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum),” was completed under the direction of Dr. Edward Levri. The thesis focuses on determining if certain habitats in streams are better for the mud snail than others.
“Sally was an absolute pleasure to work with,” says Levri. “Not only is she bright, but she is exceptionally well-organized. I never had to nudge her about her project. Once we laid out the plan, she executed it with minimal help. She was one of the finest students I have had work with me on my research.”
Ghannam is attending LECOM School of Dental Medicine this summer.
More than 4,000 of the Schreyer Honors College medallions have been presented to Penn State graduates over the years. They are inscribed with “scholarly achievement, integrity of purpose, and intellectual curiosity.” These medals are tangible symbols of the outstanding accomplishments and dedication of these students.