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SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Talk about high achievers. Consider Sara Elling, a Slippery Rock University double major in biology and exercise science who will graduate Saturday. After taking full advantage of SRU's academic and extracurricular opportunities, Elling has been accepted into the Temple University School of Medicine and said she plans to become a physician to "help people when they are vulnerable and need it the most."

"The double major could not have given me better preparation for a career in medicine," Elling said. "I received everything I need to be a very successful medical student and future physician. In my biology courses, I was able to learn all the basic science to prepare me for the MCAT exam. My exercise science degree has taught me anatomy and physiology, as well as an array of information about wellness, behavior change and exercise as medicine."

Close to 1,000 students will graduate Saturday. The University will confer 758 bachelor's degrees, 148 master's degrees and 50 doctor of physical therapy degrees.

Armed with top-drawer credentials, many May graduates have already found plum jobs or have enrolled in competitive graduate and doctorate programs nationwide.

Andrew Ryan, an environmental science major from Pittsburgh, has been accepted into the doctorate program in planetarium science at Arizona State University. ASU offered a full-ride scholarship, besting bids from the University of Arizona and the University of Washington.

Ryan, who enrolled at SRU in 2006 as a music major, said he has participated in several geography, geology and the environment field trips and serves as president of the SRU chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the national earth honorary. He has conducted research on the mineralogy and geochemistry of the rocks in Canada and has presented at SRU's annual research symposium four times and at regional and national conferences.

"The faculty at SRU have been tremendously supportive and have encouraged my development as a student, researcher and professional," Ryan said.

Mary Bresnahan, a safety and environmental management major from Indiana, Pa., landed a job a month ago as a site manager at a General Electric Transportation plant in Chicago. General Electric Transportation, the rail division of General Electric Co., manufactures equipment for railroad, mining and energy generation industries.

Bresnahan said SRU helped arrange an internship with the company last year. She applied for the job in January and said SRU's program paved the way.

"I know Slippery Rock University's safety management program is highly respected by General Electric," she said. "You get a lot of the management aspect at SRU. Today the safety profession is dealing with people on the floor, as well as providing support functions for safety and environmental health. The major sure did a good job. You get a lot of personal interaction with professors, it's like a family."

Sean Murphy, a music education major from Cranberry, has been accepted into the master's degree program in music at the University of North Texas. He will study saxophone performance.

"My acceptance into the master's of music is a direct result of my four years of study at Slippery Rock University," Murphy said. "I was prepared for graduate school by the high quality of performing ensembles here at Slippery Rock."

Murphy said he received a lot of personal attention from faculty, especially Jason Kush, SRU instructor of music.

"Studying with my private teacher, Dr. Jason Kush, as well as other faculty members, motivated me to become the best saxophonist possible by way of research, personal practice on my instrument, performances and eventually acceptance of articles I have authored for magazines printed in North America, Great Britain, France and Australia," he said.

Speaking of Britain, Christine Lundblad, a chemistry major from Pittsburgh, has enrolled in the doctor of philosophy program in inorganic chemistry at the University of Oxford. She will train with cancer researchers and medical chemistry teams, focusing on forensic research. The program has a one-year component leading to a master's degree and a three-year component leading to a doctorate.

Lundblad, a straight-A student who was named SRU's Outstanding Senior Woman, said SRU's chemistry program prepped her for Oxford. She has been involved in a research project researching the influence of chemicals and proteins on cancer cells, with the goal of shedding light on whether chemicals could be used to slow or prevent cancer cell growth.

"SRU's chemistry department has really prepared me for what I will be doing in graduate school," she said. "I visited Texas A&M and was also accepted into its Ph.D. program, and I could immediately tell that I was far more prepared for graduate school than the majority of other students participating in the visitation weekend. I truly believe that the education I received at SRU, combined with the research experience, will make me an ideal candidate for a Ph.D. in chemistry."

Bret McKendry, a safety management major from Hemitage, will be moving to Los Angeles to become a safety engineer for Alcoa Fastening Systems – Aerospace Products. The company designs and manufactures components and installation tools for aerospace and industrial applications.

"I will be working in the environmental health and safety department alongside the plant safety manager and environmental engineer," he said. "I will assist management on many different projects and maintain occupational safety and health compliance for a facility with 1,200 employees."

McKendry said SRU's program is one of the best in the country.

"What is great about our program is that it doesn't prepare graduates for just one specific type of employment," he said. "Graduates can be emergency managers, motor fleet specialists, industrial hygienists, construction safety managers or mine safety technicians. Having a variety of different types of courses allows our graduates to be knowledgeable on many different subjects. We don't have to be specific to just one area, that's what makes us diverse."

McKendry said he enrolled at SRU and entered safety management because of the job opportunities and expertise of professors.

"All of the professors within the department have had many years of experience in the field of safety," he said. "It wasn't just what I learned from books, but what I learned from their careers that helped prepare me."

Ashley Kostelnik, a dance major from North Huntington, said she landed her dream position – an apprenticeship with the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble in Pittsburgh. The ensemble is a professional, educational company that provides classes and performing opportunities for young dancers aspiring to careers in dance.

Kostelnik said she would take classes, rehearse and perform with ensemble dancers.

"This is the greatest job I could ever imagine getting," she said. "My goal has always been to be a performer, and that is what Slippery Rock University's dance department has done for me. If I hadn't gone to SRU, I would not have landed this job."

She said SRU's dance department, while not as big as some schools' programs, stands out because of the mentoring spirit.

"The professors here really care about teaching students as a person, not just a number," she said. Professors spend more time with students. They really want you to be well rounded; they really care. They give you an amazing education. They make you research and write papers, and now I am going to be able to do what I've wanted to do all my life."

Miranda Britner, a physical education major from Carmichaels, has been accepted into the master's degree program in health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh. She said she planned to major in education at SRU, but was drawn to physical education because of the professors and the wellness aspect of the program.

"My medicine is teaching others to be healthy and fit," she said. Britner said she liked everything about SRU's program, especially the professors.

"They're the nicest people, so helpful and inspiring," she said. "They all practice what they preach."

Anthony Christe, a computer science major from Somerset, is going west – far west. He has enrolled in a master's degree program in computer science at the University of Hawaii.

At SRU, Christe collaborated with David Valentine, professor of computer science, to build a supercomputer in Advanced Technology and Science Hall. They linked four computers with eight processors together via high-speed Ethernet. The computers were able to act as one computer, solving problems faster than if they were calculating alone.

"This is the next big thing and most universities aren't yet teaching this material," Christe said.

Merle McConnell, a criminal justice major from Aliquippa, will be commissioned Saturday as an active duty Army infantry officer. He will report to Ft. Benning, Ga., June 19 for the Officer Basic Course before reporting to his first duty station in Ft. Campbell, Ky.