New Kensington students, faculty celebrated in virtual awards recognition

Academic and Achievement Awards recognize academic, teaching and extracurricular honors
Arch statue

Students and faculty at Penn State New Kensington were honored for annual academic and student achievement awards on May 1. To view award winners, photos and video messages, visit

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Penn State New Kensington announced its academic, teaching and extracurricular award winners on May 1. A dedicated, virtual recognition web page, including video messages, photos and award winners, can be viewed at

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the University’s transition to a remote learning environment in March, the annual in-person research event originally for the same day was canceled. Staff members who comprise the campus awards planning committee quickly created a unique plan to assure that the achievements of the students would still be celebrated. Student awardees were mailed a post card notifying them that they were receiving an award and to keep an eye on their mailboxes for a special delivery in the coming weeks. Awardees were then mailed packages that include an official awards program, certificates and gifts.

Walker Award

The highest student honor awarded, the Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award, was presented to Dalynn Park, a sophomore biomedical engineering technology (BET) and biobehavioral health (BBH) student.

“I spend most of my time putting others first, and in most cases, others will come first before myself,” said Park, who will earn her associate degree in BET this year, as well as continue her path to earning a bachelor’s degree in BBH. “The success of others will help in my own success, therefore, I have to help others to succeed and overcome so I can do the same.”

Park’s constant commitment to serve others, as well as her leadership and scholarship, was highlighted by more than one faculty member in their nominations. “Leadership, passion, intelligence, commitment and kindness; I have seen all these characteristics in Dalynn on a regular basis over the past two years,” said one faculty member. A second letter of recommendation further stated, “Dalynn is academically driven, self-motivated and a natural learner. She is also exactly the kind of engaged citizen I think that the award is intended for. She has demonstrated a deep commitment to engagement outside of the classroom and her list of service and accomplishments in this area are remarkable.”

Park’s extracurricular activities include academic and student life-related endeavors. She is a member of both the BET and BBH Clubs, a Penn State New Kensington Honors student, member of the Tau Alpha Phi honors society, a campus Orientation Leader, member of the campus THON team and member of the Campus Activities Board. In addition, she has been working with Joie Marhefka, program coordinator of the BET program, to redesign a BET course and conduct a study of learning outcomes. Outside of the stated on-campus activites, Park has also been a youth group leader at her church for six years, works at the campus with the food services department and regularly volunteers to assist with alumni and recruiting events for the BET program and the campus.

Park’s goal is to work in the healthcare field, eventually with patients specifically in need of prosthetics. While she understands the importance of her current and future education to help reach her goal, her commitment to serving others shines as her guiding principle in all she does and will continue to do.

“Getting this type of recognition actually sparks wondering of what I do to get recognized for such things because I know not what I do, rather just do what I know feels right," said Park. "As I help others, I know not what I do for myself, but I see the way others are when I help, and seeing others’ succeed and/or overcome obstacles, I feel a sense of success for myself.”

The Walker Award is given to the student whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship and leadership contribute to the prestige of the campus. The award was established in 1980 by Penn State President Eric A. Walker and is presented at each of Penn State's campuses.

Student Awards

Students receiving academic honors were recognized for having high grade-point averages in their respective majors or within the University, as well as participation in the campus honors programs.

Accolades for leadership and participation in athletics and campus activities were also highlighted. The Penn State New Kensington Alumni Society recognized senior Tavarski Wardlow as this year’s Penn State Spirit Award winner for exhibiting integrity and character while exuding Penn State pride. Ten students were celebrated for being campus “influencers” through out-of-class involvement.

A number of athletics awards were presented and included United States Athletic Association (USCAA) All-Academic and All-American honors and Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) Academic All-Conference and All-Conference honors. Kaylea Flick, women’s volleyball, was named the campus’ Female Athlete of the Year, as well as the USCAA Student-Athlete of the Year. Benjamin Midlik, men’s soccer, was chosen as the Male Athlete of the Year for the campus and also received USCAA Student-Athlete of the Year national honors. The Robert Darby “The Darb” Sportsmanship Award, which was established in honor of Robert Darby, kinesiology instructor, athletic director and coach, who retired in 2006 after 38 years at the campus, was given to Samantha Grazioli, sophomore softball player and aerospace engineering student.

Teaching Awards

Two faculty members were honored with Excellence in Teaching Awards — Penelope Morrison, program coordinator and assistant professor of biobehavioral health (full-time), and Marie Sauret, adjunct instructor of French (part-time). Faculty have three areas of responsibility: teaching, research/scholarly activity and service. The principle criterion is classroom performance, but excellence in other activities such as advising, supervision of learning outside the classroom and course development are also considered for the accolades.

To view the entire listing of awards, photos and video messages from campus leadership, visit