• Worth Watching:

The Communicator


Recipe for Success

There are as many potential success stories in the Bellisario College as there are students — more than 2,600 — and there are some common ingredients: abundant opportunity, a pinch of encouragement and a strong helping of hard work.

Headshots of seven students

There are as many potential success stories in the Bellisario College as there are students — more than 2,600 — and there are some common ingredients: abundant opportunity, a pinch of encouragement and a strong helping of hard work.

From move-in weekend each fall to commencement in the spring, hundreds of students arrive, impact and transform the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications every year.

It’s a cycle of engagement and success, growth and mastery that basically remains the same year after year on the University Park campus even as societal norms and technological impacts slightly impact everything at Penn State and beyond.

In some ways, you know the students on campus these days. They’re the same people who were on your dorm floor or were your friends and roommates. They’re the same ones embracing long hours perfecting an advertising pitch, pursuing sources for a story or working on a film set.

Penn State communications students these days share a lot in common with those who helped build the program’s reputation and tradition. At the heart of the recipe for success are opportunities — numerous activities, clubs, organizations or professional experiences, across every major — that allow students to complement classroom experiences and prepare for their careers.

It’s a proven recipe that attracts quality students year after year and leads to success with the same regularity.

Headshot of Lucy Bickel

Lucy Bickel
Sophomore (Lebanon, Pa.)
Advertising/Public Relations

Lucy Bickel was familiar with Penn State long before she became a student, and her path toward college made her arrival as a communications major seem inevitable. Among her final high school accolades was being honored as the Pennsylvania high school student journalist of the year during an on-campus event just a few months before she moved into her dorm.

With a strong background in graphic design, ample enthusiasm and a plan (she wanted to get involved early), Bickel made the most of her first year on campus. She noted ways to get engaged before she arrived and checked them out as soon as
she could.

“It’s so easy to find opportunities here, especially with the Bellisario College involvement fairs they have at the start of each semester,” she says. “No matter what you want to do, there’s most likely some club or organization that does it. All you have to do is sign up.”

While investigating the Ad/PR Club, Bickel learned more about the American Advertising Federation chapter and its role in a yearlong national competition. She served as the plans book designer for that group, became an outreach chair for the Ad/PR Club and secured a graphic design internship with Penn State Athletics.

She also made three visits to New York City — one with the Ad/PR Club, one for the Success in the City internship and job fair and one as a member of the Maymester in
Manhattan class.

All that helped lead to an art direction internship this summer with Mason Inc.

Assistant Dean Bob Martin pointed Bickel toward an alum at Mason Inc. — Michael Field (’92), the agency’s vice president and executive creative director — and her personality and portfolio helped secure a summer internship.

“Penn State feels big when you’re one of 100,000-plus in Beaver Stadium, but in the Bellisario College you’re constantly seeing familiar faces and the faculty and staff are just so willing to help and support you,” Bickel says. “There’s community atmosphere by getting involved that makes the place feel
much smaller.”

Headshot of Leonardo Frepoli

Leonardo Frepoli
Senior (State College, Pa.)

After growing up near Pittsburgh and moving to State College for high school, Leonardo Frepoli was familiar with Penn State. It was close to home and a logical choice for his college career.

He started as an economics major before switching to journalism, did some Italian tutoring and, like many others who enrolled in 2020, endured the fits and starts of the pandemic with in-person and, more often, virtual classes.

Because his college career started online, and because his home was in town as a comfortable refuge, it took a bit to get connected, really connected.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel like a Penn State student, I didn’t feel included here, until spring of my sophomore year,” Frepoli says.

A more solid connection came for him the way it has for many other Penn Staters through the years. He joined The Daily Collegian. “I love writing, interviewing people and finding stories,” he says. “I really started feeling even more included after joining the Collegian.”

That connection led to more confidence and more connections. He has a year remaining on campus and plans to investigate options related to creative writing, film and photography.

Plus, after attending the Success in the City internship and job fair, Frepoli better appreciates how his interests and skills will lead to a career. He’s focused on journalism, but knows public relations values the same writing skillset.

Again, that has led to more confidence. As a result, he has some advice for younger students, something he wishes he could tell his younger self.

“I would tell my sophomore self to not just focus on doing well academically but to try to push yourself more and get involved with extracurricular things,” he says. “As important as it is to do well in school, it’s important to build your skills outside of it and network with people. I’ve learned just as much outside of my classes as in my classes.”

Headshot of Imanie Houthan

Imanie Houdhan
Junior (Henrico, Va.)
Telecommunications and Media Industries

For Imanie Houdhan, Penn State was basically a leap of faith. She came to campus for the first time just days before classes started, arriving sight unseen — an approach taken by a surprising number of students.

She valued the recommendation of her uncle, did a lot of online research and decided the Bellisario College was the place for her — even if it took a little bit of time for her to find her way around campus once she arrived.

“I had no idea what was happening,” she says. “I got lost a lot.”

After growing up in Jamaica and moving to Virginia with her family, Houdhan was not worried about change and she brought a passion to campus. She says she’s not outgoing, even a little shy, but she has consistently asked questions, connected and sought support. Her secret to those connections and conversations has been practice. She often works through the possible directions and what-ifs of a discussion or interview before it happens so she’s better prepared.

Leaning on and learning from others opened the door to an on-campus internship with the Bellisario College’s Office of Internships and Career Services. She also secured a spot as a graphic designer for PSN-TV and its show “Culture Central.”

She strongly shapes the visuals for the student-produced show, one of nine produced by PSN-TV. It’s been great experience for Houdhan’s eventual goal of becoming an art director.

Plus, as she’s found her voice and an outlet for her skills, she has confidently expressed a desire to educate people about her culture. She’s an only child but has a big family on both sides and letting others know what it means to be from Jamaica matters to her. “There are so many stereotypes that are just wrong,” Houdhan says. “My home and family are a big part of why I’m at Penn State and sharing them, accurately, with others, is important to me.”

She also hopes any career path takes her back home because while she loves Penn State and the opportunities she’s found on campus, she’s not a fan of winter. Someplace with “eternal summer” would be her goal.

Headshot of Lucas Hydock

Lucas Hydock
Junior (Minersville, Pa.)
Film Production

Basically, two Italian families have shaped Lucas Hydock’s college
career — the Bellisarios and the Sopranos.

Hydock saw the innovation and investment happening in the Bellisario College and decided it was the place for him to pursue his career goals. With top-notch facilities, he figured his filmmaking goals would be nurtured and supported. Plus, he knew Penn State offered many resources to hone his skills.

“I realized coming to Penn State was my most realistic and practical chance at breaking into such a competitive industry. The Bellisario College offers a lot of opportunities,” he says. “It just depends on your go-getter attitude.”

He’s certainly a go-getter. Hydock has gotten involved with CommAgency, 46 LIVE and serves as director for PSN-TV’s “Nittany Talk.” He’s creating marketing videos for the Eberly College of Science this summer and was accepted as a member for the Penn State Hollywood Program next spring.

In the spring of 2020, he watched (and binged) “The Sopranos” for the first time. While he initially thought animation might be the focus of his career, that series reshaped his plans.

“That show taught me you could make a cinematic TV show, so since then a position in streaming has been the goal,” he says. Additionally, he says shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” helped rekindle his love of filmmaking.

He says the abundance of hands-on work available in the Bellisario College, along with the collegiality and crossover interests of other students, have made him happy with his decision. After struggling early in his academic career, he says getting involved on campus helped him find more success and bolstered his confidence.

“I like being busy and I don’t want to let any opportunity pass by,” he says. “That’s what’s happened. Penn State and the Bellisario College have made that possible for me.”

Headshot of Sophia Montanye

Sophia Montanye
Senior (Pottstown, Pa.)

Sophia Montanye got involved early and has earned additional responsibility and grown personally by sticking with a core (albeit a big core) of activities.

She serves as digital managing editor of The Daily Collegian, membership coordinator for PSN-TV, news producer for PSN-TV, and as a preproduction and client executive for CommAgency. In the fall, she’ll be a member of the class that produces the award-winning “Centre County Report” newscast.

She’s completing a major in broadcast journalism with minors in political science and sustainability. While she initially thought she’d pursue an on-camera career, her experiences have altered that focus a bit. Plus, her innate ability to support others sometimes makes her more productive — and vital — behind the scenes.

She’s become an effective and quiet leader and she’s broadened her skillset because of her varied interests. She’s still happy to explore on-camera opportunities but also likes working with analytics, graphics, multimedia, podcasts and production.

This summer she’s completing a news production internship with WTAJ-TV in Altoona, Pa., while working at Irving’s Bagels on College Avenue.

Her biggest strength might be her honesty. She knows
herself well.

“It’s been challenging because sometimes I bite off more than I can chew,” she says. “I always kind of find myself in leadership roles, though, and I don’t really anticipate it.”

It’s just innate for her. She’s one of five siblings, the youngest of the only set of twins in the group, so she’s squarely in the middle. It’s clear she’s been influencing (and leading) up and down her whole life. Plus, she’s wise to enough adapt.

Although she grew up knowing about Penn State, she was also certain she would not attend the University.

“I was that typical Pennsylvania kid. I wanted to go anywhere but Penn State,” Montanye says. “I knew nothing about the communications program. I went to an accepted students’ program, got to meet some of the students on the student panel and I think that’s what sealed me to come here. That’s when I could see myself here.”

Now she can’t see herself anywhere else.

Headshot of Andrea Prest

Andrea Prest
Senior (Chicago)
Advertising/Public Relations

Andrea Prest picked a college far from home in another region of the country because she wanted something different. She has not been disappointed by Penn State.

“It was the only place I felt like I’d found a home before I arrived,” she says.

She admits the “vibe” in central Pennsylvania was unusual, especially when she first heard people debating the merits of Sheetz and Wawa and had no idea what they were talking about. Still, she’s made many connections, lifelong friends and memories.

She appreciates the mountains and nature near the University Park campus that are not an option near Chicago, and she especially appreciates all the things she’s been able to try as a Penn State student. She served as a campus tour guide for Lion Scouts, found connections with a sorority in Greek Life and secured a social media internship with the Office of Student Affairs. This fall, she plans to study abroad in London before returning for the spring semester of her senior year.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m going into my senior year,” she says. “It only feels like a little while ago that we flew to Baltimore and then drove to campus for my first visit. It’s gone so fast.”

It’s gone fast in part because she’s been busy. She’s stayed rooted in Chicago by watching the Cubs religiously, completing summer internships at home and solidifying her experiences to hopefully start a career in advertising or corporate marketing in her hometown after graduation.

“I enjoy being busy. It keeps my brain engaged, and it’s nice to know there’s something going on,” Prest says. “Being busy isn’t a requirement. It just helps me manage my time and
do better.”

She points to memories attending THON and experiencing “College GameDay” as things that will be with her forever. After a recent tour, a prospective family told Prest how helpful the session and her efforts were. That resonated and brought her experience full circle because she became a tour guide based on the impact of her prospective student tour.

Finally, Prest appreciates the honesty and support of Bellisario College faculty members.

“It’s clear they care. I’ve gotten honest, truthful feedback,” she says. “I know that I’m going to go out and probably get hard-hitting feedback when my career starts, so getting that now is helpful.”

Headshot of Davis Yoshitani

Davis Yoshitani
Junior (West Point, N.Y.)
Advertising/Public Relations

Maybe it’s being the son of two career military personnel or maybe he just likes to be prepared. Either way, Davis Yoshitani has found success by having a plan and working through it step by step.

As he gets closer to starting this third academic year at Penn State, he’s explored clubs and organizations and found a mix of opportunities that work for him. “The Bellisario College has so many options,” he says. “There are a lot of awesome experiences, and they’re also
high-quality experiences.”

When he was considering his college options, Penn State moved atop the list because of the sheer number of student engagement experiences. Both his parents graduated from West Point and serve as permanent military faculty there, so that was an option — but not the best one for him.

He learned to appreciate the power of advertising in high school when his campaign for junior class treasurer was bolstered by a series of ads he and a friend put together on social media. The funny skits helped him connect and earn votes. He won the election.

Yoshitani served as business manager of The Daily Collegian last year and is moving into leadership roles with the Ad/PR Club and the American Advertising Federation chapter on campus this fall. This summer he’s completing an internship focused on digital yield in the ad sales department at Warner Bros. Discovery.

He’s done a lot in just two years, but he’s not done. There’s more to his plan.

“I’m very proud of where I am. At the same time, I still have room for growth,” Yoshitani says “I’m just going semester by semester, setting goals and working to accomplish them. My end goal is just to keep meeting my semester goals.”