Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

News and Awards

News and Awards

News and Awards

We are proud of our alumni. Our graduates have made distinguished contributions to their communities, have provided leadership in business, have contributed to complicated efforts of diplomacy, conflict resolution, community planning, and have contributed responsibly as elected officials.  Some are even professors!  All are lifelong learners of politics and civic engagement, and are active citizens in their communities, nations and in international organizations.

Alumni Award Recipients

2022-23 Outstanding Young Alumni – David Cole

Dave, a native of State College, Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State in 2013 with degrees in political science and visual journalism. He is an award-winning lead photo editor for special projects at The Wall Street Journal, working primarily on features and enterprise stories across the business and investigations desks. In 2020, Dave was part of the Journal’s coverage of PG&E, which was recognized as a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Gerald Loeb award winner. In 2021, Dave led photo editing for a series on TikTok’s algorithm, which earned first place in the Philip Meyer Journalism Awards and a Society for News and Design Award of Excellence. Before joining the photo department, Dave was a visuals editor on the emerging media team at the Journal, where he worked on motion graphics projects for emerging platforms, including Snapchat Discover and Instagram Stories. Before joining the Journal in 2015, Dave was a freelance visual journalist in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and worked on the local news startup EveryBlock.

2022-23 Outstanding Public Service – Anna Maria Colom

Anna Maria Colom earned her bachelor’s degree in international politics with a minor in Spanish in 1994, followed by a juris doctorate degree from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and a master of business administration degree from the University of London. She has had a distinguished career with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where she currently serves as the director of aviation and marine integration, where she leads the development and implementation of government-wide aviation and marine asset management legislation, policies, regulations, and standards.

Before joining the Department of Homeland Security, Anna Maria held several positions with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and served as the U.S. Government’s overseas representative for engaging with foreign governments to ensure transportation security at U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires and Santiago. Among other prominent positions, she served as portfolio manager for the western hemisphere with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Certification Service and as lead program analyst for the Defense Logistics Agency.

2022-23 Outstanding Alumni – William Peduto

Bill Peduto earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2007—an effort he began in the early 1980s—after which he earned a master’s degree in public policy and management from the University of Pittsburgh. He operated a political consulting business and served in a variety of roles for several elected officials before being elected to the Pittsburgh City Council in 2001, a position he held until 2013, when he was elected mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. During his tenure as mayor, which lasted until 2022, Bill grew the city’s revenue by more than twenty percent and created the Office of Equity, Welcoming Pittsburgh, the Office of Sustainability and Resilience and other programs, which led to reductions in homelessness, poverty, and violent crime. Bill worked for nearly twenty years to create Pittsburgh’s largest park at Hays Wood. He was awarded the 2020 Climate Protection Award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and under Bill’s leadership, Pittsburgh was recognized nationally and internationally as a model city, receiving awards in urban excellence for technology, mobility, sustainability, infrastructure, and equity.

2021-22 Outstanding Young Alumni – Joshua Branch

Joshua Brady Branch is a policy specialist with the Crime and Justice Institute, a nonprofit organization providing analysis to improve the adult and youth justice systems. Since 2021, Joshua has contributed to justice reinvestment initiatives in Michigan, North Carolina, and New Mexico. After graduating, he began his career as an award-winning teacher for Teach for America. Seeing students arrested at school inspired him to pursue a legal education at Georgetown University Law Center, where he received the Juvenile Justice Public Service and the Pro Bono Exceptional Service awards. After law school, Joshua became a juvenile defense and foster care attorney where he contributed to a historic class action lawsuit against Glen Mills Schools (Pennsylvania) for abusive practices and violations of civil rights leading to the facility’s closure and a state investigation.

In 2020, he moved to New Orleans serving as a program and campaign manager for the Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana. There he helped lead an advocacy group in passing four of six expungement reform bills in his first year. He also created and oversaw a first of its kind virtual traffic program resulting in more than $7,000 traffic-related fines and fees being removed from citizens’ accounts. The program was replicated in several parishes because of its success. His writings on criminal justice have been published in Slate, The Root, and Medium among others.

While a student at Penn State, Joshua was a Lion Ambassador, University nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship, and Political Science Student of the Year. He was recently a visiting teaching Fellow in the College of the Liberal Arts, teaching a Juvenile Law and Policy course.

2021-22 Outstanding Public Service – Seth Miller

Seth earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2001 followed by a juris doctorate from the Florida State University College of Law.  He is the executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), a Tallahassee, Florida-based justice organization whose mission is to free wrongfully convicted people from prison, help them successfully reintegrate back into free society, and reform our legal system to prevent future wrongful convictions. He litigates postconviction innocence cases, supervises the IPF’s internship program, and regularly lectures to students, lawyers, and community groups on issues related to wrongful convictions. He also teaches Postconviction Remedies as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law and Stetson University College of Law.

Seth was president of the Innocence Network, a consortium of more than sixty-five innocence organizations in the United States and abroad, from 2014—2020, and has served on its executive board from 2012—2021.

He also served as chair of the Steering Committee for the American Bar Association Death Penalty Due Process Review Project. Before joining IPF in 2006, he served as a project attorney with the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project in Washington, D.C., and as a staff attorney with the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, Florida.

2021-22 Outstanding Alumni – Mary Ann Danowitz

Mary Ann Danowitz earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1969 and returned to Penn State for a doctorate in education after earning a master’s degree from the University of Miami.

She is a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University, where she served as dean of its College of Education from 2016–2021. Earlier in her career, she held various faculty and administrative positions at William & Mary, Penn State, The Ohio State University, and the University of Denver before joining the faculty at NC State in 2012 as head of the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development and professor of higher education. An award-winning and prolific scholar whose research focuses on gender, diversity, and equity in the areas of leadership, governance, management, organizational change, and careers, Mary Ann has held board and leadership positions for several educational organizations. She has published more than 110 articles, book chapters, and academic papers, as well as 5 books and monographs. Her work has been cited more than 1,700 times. She is a two-time Fulbright Scholar who conducted research in Austria and Indonesia, and she has taught and conducted research in Australia, England, Germany, Hungary, and Malaysia.

2020-21 Outstanding Young Alumni - Cristina Infanzón

Originally from Puerto Rico, Cristina majored in International Relations with minors in International Studies, Sociology, and French. She graduated from Penn State in 2013, followed by a juris doctorate from Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts, where she began an impressive career serving migrant populations. While in law school, Cristina worked as a law clerk for a Boston law firm and also with an organization in Mexico City, Mexico that provides direct

services and legal representation to migrants with claims related to their employment in the United States. She also worked with the Human Rights Commission of the City of Boston drafting policies to address racial and social justice. Today, she is the Department of Justice managing accredited representative for the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Phoenix, Arizona, where she oversees the quality of services provided for unaccompanied minors.

2020-21 Outstanding Public Service - Melissa Protzek Caltagarone

Melissa earned degrees in Philosophy and Political Science from Penn State in 1995, followed by a juris doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. An attorney by training, Melissa has spent more than two decades advocating for at-risk children and families and currently serves as the executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program of Allegheny County—known as CASA—where she has worked with more than 800 volunteers to advocate for some 2,000 abused and neglected children. Melissa has been a member of several child welfare organizations. For her outstanding work, she has been honored with several honors and awards, including being named in 2010 the National CASA Director of the Year and one of the top 25 Women in Business by the Pittsburgh Business Times. A lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association and a past adjunct professor at Penn State New Kensington, Melissa received the Department of Philosophy Alumni Award in 2018.

2020-21 Outstanding Alumni - Larry Seamans

Larry earned his Political Science degree in 1985 and went on to earn a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is currently the president of FamilyAid Boston, the city’s largest human service provider focused solely on the needs of homeless children and their parents. Before FamilyAid, Larry held positions with the YWCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Procter & Gamble, and other organizations. A tireless advocate for the less fortunate and marginalized, Larry responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by turning FamilyAid’s corporate offices into a warehouse that distributes food and supplies to needy families on a weekly basis. He has served on several boards and task forces, and he is a frequent speaker on older child adoption. Larry participates in the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program, and last fall took advantage of a matching gift program to create the Makowski Seamans Family Educational Equity  Scholarship.

2019-20 Outstanding Young Alumni - Melinda Kuritzky

Melinda is a 2006 International Politics and Spanish alumna who leads on global risks and geopolitics at the World Economic Forum. Melinda holds a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School and a master of public policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School. An attorney by training, Melinda has worked for many years at the intersection of international law, politics, and risk. Before joining the World Economic Forum, she focused on creating sustainable development oriented policy solutions for the international investment regime at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Melinda has published on topics such as environmental risks in international arbitration, public health and human rights, and international migration.

2019-20 Outstanding Public Service - Peter Grollman

Peter earned his bachelor’s degree in 1995 and went on to earn a master of government administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Today, he is senior vice president for external affairs for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where he supports the hospital’s patient care, education, and research mission. He oversees the departments of Marketing and Public Relations; Diversity and Inclusion; Government Affairs; and Community Relations, in addition to supporting the president and CEO with external affairs matters. Ultimately, he is responsible for ensuring that the hospital’s external communications, commitment to a diverse and inclusive environment, community engagement, and health policy goals align with CHOP’s overall mission.

Peter is an active volunteer, serving on the board of directors for the Greater Philadelphia YMCA and the University City District, and as board chair for the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. Peter also served on the Health Transition Review Team for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

2019-20 Outstanding Alumni - Patti McGill Peterson

Patti graduated from Penn State in 1965 with her Political Science degree and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin. She also was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship for postgraduate study at Harvard University. Dr. Peterson has had a very impressive fifty-year career in higher education, which has included serving as a faculty member at the State University of New York, Syracuse University, and Wells College and as president of Wells College and St. Lawrence University. She has held prominent international, national, and statewide leadership positions and has served on several advisory boards. Most recently, Dr. Peterson served as presidential advisor for global initiatives at the American Council on Education.