IST student marshal to graduate with three degrees

Amanda Mahon, class of 2019, will graduate cum laude on Aug. 10 with three degrees from Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology. She is serving as the college's student marshal during the summer commencement ceremony. Credit: Jessica Hallman / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amanda Mahon has been selected as the College of Information Sciences and Technology student marshal for the summer 2019 commencement ceremony. Mahon, a Reading, Pennsylvania native, is graduating cum laude with three degrees: a bachelor of science in information sciences and technology (IST), a bachelor of science in security and risk analysis, and a master's in IST, through the college’s integrated undergraduate-graduate program.

Although one might think Mahon planned her graduation path early in her academic career, the addition of two other degrees happened arbitrarily.

“It wasn’t really anything in particular [that made me add the other degrees],” Mahon said. “I’m thinking of getting my Ph.D., so I wanted to get my foot in the door with research. I just wanted the opportunity to dive deeper into the field and have experience when I go into the work force.”

Mahon acquired her affinity for technology easily; her mother and uncle were both programmers. She describes her love for it as “a family thing.”

"I think [my passion for technology] was always there, but it grew when I was in high school,” Mahon said. “I took computer programming classes in high school and did competitions with the Technology Student Association and really liked it.”

Mahon said Penn State was a natural next step for her after high school, since her brother and other family members were students and alumni.

“Penn State was always a part of my life,” Mahon said. “It was the only place I really thought about going.”

Mahon chose IST when she went to an information session at the college while visiting her brother on campus.

“I fell in love with IST and the people side of technology,” Mahon said. “I wanted that personal connection and IST offered that.”

She added, “IST is something that other schools don’t have; it’s a focus area that’s unique to Penn State. The course material is not just about how we can use technology, but how we can improve the experience for users and protect their information.”

Despite her success and achievements in the classroom — including being named to the Dean’s List every semester — and in all aspects of university life, Mahon said she was shocked that she was chosen to be the student marshal for IST.

“I think it’s an honor,” Mahon said of being chosen. “It honestly took me by surprise. I'm glad that I can represent the students in IST. We have amazing students and I'm honored that somehow out of all of them I was chosen to be the marshal.”

Mahon chose Ed Glantz, her honors adviser for the Schreyer Honors College and teaching professor in the College of IST, as her faculty marshal. She said that Glantz has had a positive impact on her from the beginning, always pushing her to never undersell herself.

"He never lets me discredit myself,” Mahon said. “If I achieve something and downplay it, he’s always the one to tell me how successful I am. He always pushes me to do more, and to stand up for myself.”

She added, “He's just someone who is very easy to talk to. I’ll go in for him to sign a piece of paper and I come out two hours later after talking with him about school, life, and whatever else.”

Mahon says many professors in the college instilled important lessons in her.

“I had great classroom experiences,” Mahon added. “I had impactful teachers that had worked in the field that could tell me what to expect when I go into the workforce, and they motivated me.”

Mahon, who served as vice president of the IST Honors Society and as a THON technology captain, speaks highly about her involvement, especially as a teaching assistant and learning assistant in the college. She cites these positions with improving her communication skills as well as her academics.

“My involvement engrained a lot of IST topics in me, being an LA and TA I really had to understand the materials,” Mahon said. “I had to think about the information in a different way. Those positions reinforced information I learned while diving deeper into the topics.”

She added, “It also taught me the importance of having flexible communication styles and how to work with different people. It gave me great communication skills.”

In addition, Mahon enjoyed her internships with Johnson & Johnson, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, and the Berks County Intermediate Unit. All students in the college are required to complete at least one internship; Mahon completed four.

“They gave me an idea of what all is out there,” Mahon said. “I didn’t know the breadth of opportunities available in the technology field until working at these companies. They showed me how to use classroom knowledge in the real world; a lot of students ask the question, ‘How can I use this information outside of the classroom?’ and these internships gave that to me.”

After graduation, Mahon plans to stay in State College and continue in her current position at the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory.

“I think there's a lot of opportunity within State College that people don’t realize,” Mahon said. “I’m going to seek out opportunities here and see where my career takes me.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020