Campus Life

Alumni, staff recognized at annual College of the Liberal Arts awards ceremony

Award recipients at the College of the Liberal Arts' annual alumni awards ceremony included: (top, left to right) Christine MacAulay, Sara Woods, Vincent Culotta, Barby Singer; (bottom, left to right) Conrad and Susan Bessemer, Sandra Schwartz Hillman, Jacqueline Balk Tusa, Joe Schwachter.  Credit: photos providedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Several members of the Penn State liberal arts family were honored during the College of the Liberal Arts’ annual Alumni Awards Ceremony, which took place Thursday, April 19 at the Centre Hills Country Club in State College.

“While technology and other advancements have transformed much of our lives, our most successful societies continue to be built by individuals who demonstrate the capacity to think critically, act ethically, communicate articulately, and show an appreciation for different backgrounds and perspectives — core liberal arts values,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. "The alumni and staff honored this year at our award ceremony — Christine, Sara, Vince, Barby, Conrad and Susan, Sandy, Jacqueline, and Joe — are wonderful representatives of the college and ambassadors for the liberal arts.”

The ceremony’s first four awards were sponsored by the Liberal Arts Alumni Society Board of Directors, while the final four awards were sponsored by the college. This year’s honorees included:

— Christine L. MacAulay (class of 2005, international politics), received the 2018 Outstanding Young Liberal Arts Alumni Award. MacAulay has devoted her career to planning, monitoring and evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of international aid programs in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.  She currently serves as team lead for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan after serving previous roles with the agency’s Middle East Bureau; its Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning; and its Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs.

Prior to joining USAID, MacAulay served as an adviser to Liberia’s Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs; advised several international nonprofits on their respective refugee and human security policies for central Africa; and was a researcher for the University for Peace-Africa Program in Ethiopia. In addition to her Penn State degree, MacAulay earned her master’s degree in public affairs and development studies from Princeton University.

— Sara L. Woods (class of 1996, women’s studies), received the Service to Society Award. Woods is currently executive director of Philadelphia Futures, an organization providing low-income, first-generation-college students with the tools, opportunities and resources they need to gain admission to and succeed in college. She is also an adjunct professor at Villanova University School of Law.

Woods previously served as executive director of Philadelphia VIP and director of public interest careers and pro bono programs at Villanova University, where she earned her master in public administration and juris doctor degrees. She began her legal career as a public-interest lawyer representing survivors of domestic violence at Delaware County Domestic Abuse Project and Philadelphia’s Women Against Abuse Legal Center.

Woods is currently vice president of Access Matters, which works to equalize access to sexual and reproductive health care for teens and adults in need, and sits on the advisory board of the Crime Victims Law Project. At Penn State, Woods has participated in the college’s mentor, law careers, and Women in Leadership programs, and has established a graduate fund in the women’s studies program.

— Vincent Culotta (class of 1981, psychology) received the Service to Penn State Award.  Culotta is founder and president of NeuroBehavioral Associates, a Columbia, Maryland-based neuropsychology practice serving children, adolescents and adults with known or suspected brain-based and neurodevelopmental disorders.  Prior to founding NeuroBehavioral Associates, Culotta held clinical and administrative positions with various medical, rehabilitation and private facilities, including an appointment as director of neuropsychology, Neurosurgery Division, for the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center. He received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Memphis.

At Penn State, Culotta served on the Alumni Society Board of Directors, was a member of the Career Enrichment Network Task Force, and helped launch the college’s Liberal Arts mentor program. In addition to mentoring nearly a dozen students, he provides a summer internship with his practice for psychology majors.  He and his wife, Cheryl, also have established a study abroad endowment in the College.

— Barby A. Singer received the Welch Alumni Relations Award. Singer has served as assistant to the director of the Richards Civil War Era Center (RCWEC) since 2005. Her work with RCWEC, its board of visitors, and with alumni and friends more broadly, has been a cornerstone of the center’s success.

Singer organizes the board of visitors’ annual meetings to places of historic significance such as Gettysburg, Richmond, and Harper’s Ferry — events which typically include lectures, tours, behind-the-scenes access to archives and special collections, samplings of period food and beverage, handling of authentic artifacts, and other even hands-on experiences. She also coordinates the logistics of numerous other events sponsored by RCWEC, including lecture series, workshops, conferences, and the center’s emerging scholars programs.

— Conrad M. (class of 1974, pre-law), and Susan M. Bessemer received the Chaiken Leadership Award. The Bessemers own Novatec Incorporated, a U.S.-based manufacturer of industrial equipment for the plastics industry. Conrad serves as the firm’s CEO; Susan serves as the firm’s executive vice president. They also own MachineSense LLC, a company with employees that uses electrical and vibration inputs to detect and predict machine anomalies.

The Bessemers are long-time supporters of the college and its Department of Political Science.  Conrad is a member of the college's Campaign Planning Committee and currently chairs the Political Science Board of Visitors. The couple made the lead gift that enabled the Board of Visitors to create a graduate fellowship in political science, and they have generously supported the Paterno Fellows Program and the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. They also regularly host dinners and gatherings for alumni and students in the Washington metro area.

— Sandra Schwartz Hillman (class of 1963, arts and letters) received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni in Business Award. Hillman is president and owner of Sandy Hillman Communications, a Baltimore-based firm that provides an array of marketing communications services to Fortune 500 brands, visionary startups, and government agencies. Before establishing her own firm, Hillman was CEO of Trahan, Burden & Charles, where she worked for 23 years. Before that, she served under Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer for 13 years and founded the city’s Office of Promotion and Tourism. There, Hillman led a team that re-branded the city, developed an award-winning tourism infrastructure, and contributed to the creation of many new jobs in the area.

Hillman currently sits on a number of boards and committees including Living Classrooms Foundation, University of Maryland Foundation-Baltimore, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Greater Baltimore Committee, and the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy. She was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 1990.

— Jacqueline Balk Tusa, (class of 1970, doctorate in history), received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni Award. Tusa is retired principal of Jacqueline Balk Tusa, LLC, a lobbying firm located in Washington, D.C. She was also one of the first women to earn a doctoral degree in history from Penn State.

Balk Tusa moved to Washington after graduation to accept a Smithsonian Institution Fellowship; shortly thereafter, she became minority counsel for the House of Representatives’ Commission on Administrative Review.  After the commission completed its work, Balk Tusa briefly left Capitol Hill to lobby before returning to serve as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Mark Andrews of North Dakota. She joined as partner/principal of their lobbying firm in 1987 and established her own consulting firm after his retirement.

Balk Tusa’s passion for history manifested itself in a gift she made to support the Richards Civil War Era Center’s Emerging Scholars Summer Mentor Program. She and her husband Frank (class of 1967 and 1975, master's degree and doctorate in history) have also supported the Department of History’s graduate program.

— Joe Schwachter, (class of 1973, political science), also received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni Award. Schwachter is a shareholder at Littler Mendelson, the largest law firm in the United States devoted exclusively to representing companies on employment- and labor-related issues. Schwachter joined the firm in 1982 and served as the managing shareholder of its flagship office for six years beginning in 1999.

Schwachter began his law career as a litigator for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after receiving his juris doctor degree from Cleveland State University. Since moving to private practice, he has specialized in appearing before the NLRB and in litigating claims in the state and federal courts on behalf of clients in print and broadcast media, biotech, health care and telecommunications, to name some industries. 

Schwachter lectures frequently throughout the United States, Europe and Asia on employment-related issues. He has been named one of northern California’s SuperLawyers, and he has been quoted in numerous periodicals including the New York Times and People. He also generously donates his time serving on boards and advising nonprofits.

Last Updated April 25, 2018