Student Feature: YSU grads ready for next steps


Story by: Hannah Werle, Communication and Journalism major
Photography by: Olivia Rivera, Graphic and Interactive Design major


More than 750 students walked across the stage during the Fall 2023 graduation ceremonies with an unwavering sense of readiness and preparation toward their next steps in professional development, equipped with knowledge and resources from their academic career at Youngstown State University.

No matter their majors, this graduating class had an outstanding number of students with a story unique to them, highlighting the countless ways they had gone above and beyond the expectations of not only a student, but as an individual in the Youngstown community.

Caitlin AdamsCaitlin Adams received her Bachelor of Science in Education in Art Education from YSU’s Cliffe College of Creative Arts.

Adams said her time at college taught her how to advocate for herself and others, which has helped her to become a better teacher and support for her students.

“If a student needs you, you have to be there for them, to advocate for and support them,” Adams said.

Adams said YSU showed her how to approach teaching kids with an open mind. She said her many art classes have helped her to adapt lessons and techniques to suit students’ needs.

“I’ve gained an immense education in all of the bases of art — that’s one of the things you do as an art education major is you have to go through all of the intro courses,” Adams said. “I did photography, graphic design, painting, sculpture and everything in between, which has given me a huge basis of knowledge going into my career.”

Adams spent her fall semester as a paid student teacher at an elementary school. As a part of her student teaching orientation, Adams attended a job fair, where she met representatives from the school.

“They hired me under a non-bachelor’s subbing license, so I was able to operate as a full time substitute teacher in my content area while doing my student teaching,” Adams said. “It’s been fantastic, it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Going in as a student teacher has shaped me so much over the last couple months and I’ve learned so much.”

Adams was hired with the intention of signing her onto a full-time teaching contract in January, so long as she passed her student teaching and all necessary certifications.

Jack AulbachJack Aulbach, a member of YSU’s Sokolov Honors College, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Aulbach said he spent his time at YSU taking advantage of every opportunity it offered, which allowed him many valuable experiences.

In Aulbach’s junior year, he became a teaching assistant with the Honors College. He said his experience taking Introduction to Honors, a mandatory seminar for all new honors students, is what helped him fall in love with the college, its staff and faculty.

“Being a part of the honors college has been nothing short of amazing… [the faculty and staff] are just the greatest group of people that you will ever meet. The support that I have from the faculty there and the other students in the honors college is something I’m so grateful for,” Aulbach said.

Aulbach said he has developed an amazing network and support system, which has helped him achieve many goals.

“A big part of my decision to come to YSU was athletics related… Although I based my decision on the athletic aspects, I’ve just been so impressed with the academic side of YSU,” Aulbach said. “I think for the value, you get the best faculty, the best courses and you just get an experience that is so valuable for a fraction of the price of other universities.”

In January, Aulbach will begin attending Northeast Ohio Medical University with hopes to receive his master’s in Anesthesiology and become a certified anesthesiologist’s assistant.

Sabrina BartholomewSabrina Bartholomew is a student in YSU’s College of Graduate Studies, graduating with a Master of Business Administration in Marketing.

Bartholomew decided to return to YSU after graduating with her bachelor’s in Accounting in fall 2022. She decided to get her MBA because she wanted more time to further her academics and gain more experience and knowledge in her field. Bartholomew worked as a graduate assistant in Intramural Sports, a role which was created for her as she pursued her master’s.

“The transition from being a regular student worker to being a graduate assistant was so easy and everyone in the program was so supportive and welcoming. Other graduate assistants helped me to learn the routine and what my role was,” stated Bartholomew. “It was definitely a unique experience, but I was given so many more opportunities and had so many more responsibilities.”

Bartholomew explained that her time as a graduate assistant helped her develop professionally, make connections and meet more people. She said the things she learned as an MBA student and a graduate assistant were often connected.

“As a grad assistant, especially in my role, I had to communicate with my staff a lot. It was a staff of around 15 to 20 undergraduate students, a lot of which had never had a job or didn’t necessarily understand what they were getting into,” Bartholomew said. “So I definitely had to learn how to be professional and to communicate with people in a way they would understand things.”

Cara ClarkKara Clark earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services.

Clark pursued her degree through YSU’s online RN to BSN program, which allowed her a flexible education as a non-traditional student. She said she decided to get her degree with the hopes of advancing to a higher leadership position within her career.

“The online program was phenomenal because of its flexibility. I needed something that was flexible. I work full time. At the time that I started, I had two children in high school that were very active in extracurriculars,” Clark said. “It just allowed me that flexibility that I needed to put forth that effort to get the degree but also maintain a work life balance and it was wonderful.”

Because Clark already had a leadership position within her job, one of her professors approached her about helping to precept other RN to BSN students for their leadership hours.

“In the BSN program, you have to take a leadership and a capstone course and both of those are clinicals,” Clark said. “I didn't have to go to the hospital to do the clinicals because I had already been a nurse for 20 years. However, the clinical hours are with a preceptor, so with somebody in a leadership position. So I took an RN to BSN student and met with them virtually to guide and work with them to log those clinical hours at my company.”

Clark said the process was rewarding because she also had to go through a similar process with her manager as an RN. Clark plans to continue working with YSU’s Nursing program as a preceptor after graduation.

Darcy McTigueDarcy McTigue graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Anthropology from the Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Education and a minor in Art History.

In her time at YSU, McTigue worked with the YSU Anthropology Colloquium and the Youngstown Historical Center for Industry and Labor to document and curate anthropological findings. Over summer 2023, McTigue had an internship with the Arms Family Museum, where she still works as a guide.

McTigue said her professors were always willing to help students make connections and find job opportunities relevant to their field. She said the opportunities she’s had to work in her field have enriched her learning experience.

“Higher education, getting a degree, fosters higher levels of learning and encourages independent thought, which is beneficial regardless of your field,” McTiuge said. “I believe my time at YSU has prepared me for the future — full send.”

McTigue has begun applying to graduate schools, as she plans to pursue her master’s degree after graduation.

Zack NemethZachary Nemeth graduated from YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration with his Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Accounting.

Nemeth, also a member of YSU’s Sokolov Honors College, said his time at YSU helped him to expand himself, make connections, join organizations and meet new people. Nemeth was a part of the Student Investment Fund, which gave him a chance to travel to New York City to learn about finance and investing.

“The biggest advantage YSU has provided me is that it prepared me for the future. Through YSU I found an internship, which has now turned into a job. Our professors are great, and they make an effort to have their course material reflect what we need to know entering the workforce,” Nemeth said.

Nemeth was also a recipient of the WCBA Senior Student Leadership Award, an honor which is presented to one student in each department through professor nomination.

Christoffer SplainChristoffer Splain graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics after returning to college in fall 2020. Splain had previously attended YSU in the English Studies program, but left before obtaining his degree.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I was kind of terrified to go back to school after 20-or-so years in the workforce.” Splain said. “It was a struggle, as a nontraditional student, trying to relate to younger people, but I think the journey got easier and more rewarding as time went on.”

In his time at YSU, Splain became a teaching assistant for YSU’s Data Mine, a course which allows students to work with businesses and other colleges to do research and data science work.

“[Data Mine] works with corporate partners to do data science work. This semester we’re working with DriveOhio, which works with autonomous vehicles. They give us access to data, give us some sort of project they want us working on and we try to create some sort of result that they can use and analyze,” Splain said.

Splain and those part of the course visited Purdue University, which collaborates with YSU within the Data Mine project. While there, the team was able to present the work they had done and data they had collected over the semester.

Splain credited his work at the Data Mine for helping him realize how he planned to utilize his degree post-graduation, as he plans to continue working in the data science field.

YSU’s graduates are leaving not only with a diploma and a degree, but also with field experience, connections and jobs. Their time at YSU has provided them with the opportunity to learn, grow and develop the skills needed to foster a bright future.

Commencement Photo Gallery

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