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Commencement 2023

CAHS celebrates its first Spring Commencement ceremony

Students setting in cap and gown during commencement
The College of Applied Human Sciences will cap its inaugural academic year at Commencement on Saturday, May 13, at 9 a.m. at the WVU Coliseum. Here is a look at several graduates from the College who will be earning their degree this weekend.

Taylor Bleigh is a first-generation college student who will earn her degree in elementary education on Saturday in front of family and friends. She took advantage of a unique opportunity this past semester where she served as a long-term substitute at the school she worked as a teacher-in-residence. 

Similarly, Zorin Istvan took advantage of every opportunity and resource afforded to him at WVU and CAHS. He helped parlay those experiences to land a graduate assistantship at Louisiana State University in student-athlete development. Erin Kenney built her network during her time at WVU to help her land a job immediately after graduation with Aramark Refreshments.

Valerie Brunner was at a crossroads in her education at WVU, but with the support of family, friends and CAHS faculty and staff, she transferred into the health and well-being program and found the program she was meant to be in. Classmate Joshua Wingard also overcame doubt and challenges but persevered and is now pursuing chiropractic medicine in graduate school.

Skyler Ashbaugh and Melissa Dhyne demonstrated commitment and grit by completing their master's degrees online while balancing a full schedule.

These stories of the graduates from the College of Applied Human Sciences showcase the diverse paths that lead to success. From taking advantage of unique opportunities to building networks and persevering through challenges, these graduates have shown resilience, determination and grit. As they prepare to receive their degrees and embark on new journeys, they serve as a testament to the importance of higher education and the transformative power it holds. 
Decorated graduation caps worn by students at commencement

Student Spotlights

Portrait of Skyler outside

Skyler Ashbaugh

Major: Sport Management (M.S.)

Hometown: Portland, Ore.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I chose WVU for a few reasons. Firstly, the program was set up well for me to manage my personal and professional life. I work full-time, have 2 young kids, and live across the country. The time required to be successful in the program matched what I was able to give. Secondly, from the moment I requested information about the program, I felt a real sense of community and there was an excitement from WVU that I wanted to join. Zoom calls with faculty really helped build the connection with the program even from across the country. Lastly, I had a friend who had recently completed the program and gave it rave reviews and was able to give me a great idea of what I was getting into. I wanted to work on my degree that was relevant to the sports industry and this program offers exactly that!

What is your current position and role, and how does this degree from WVU help you in your career trajectory?

I currently work as the product line manager for Promo Footwear within the Jordan brand at Nike. Our team creates all of the player-exclusive footwear for our Jordan brand-sponsored athletes and universities. I have been with the Jordan brand for 3.5 years and with Nike for 12.5 years and have worked in different positions and products in my career. This degree has helped me build my business acumen as I look to move into higher roles within Nike and Jordan. I have managed products for about 10 years now, but this program has helped me understand how to grow both personally and professionally at a management level.

What do you think sets WVU apart from the rest when it comes to your learning experience?

I think the program is set up for people to be successful who can’t be full-time, in-person students. The course content is very relevant to current topics and there are a lot of interviews and discussions with people within the sports industry. I also believe the semester setup that focuses on one class at a time really allowed me to into each course and give it my full attention.

What were some of the hardest challenges you had to face during your time at WVU, and how did you get through them?

The biggest challenge was that I hadn't been in school for over 15 years. I finished my undergraduate work in 2007 at Oregon State and always wanted to get my master’s degree but it just never seemed like the right time. COVID changed all of that and gave me an opportunity to fill some of my free time in quarantine with the pursuit of an advanced degree. I had to re-learn how to read for quizzes, write papers, and engage with classmates, but I enjoyed that challenge.

I also had my second child born in the middle of my first semester. It was more than I had anticipated to juggle my personal, professional, and school life, so I decided to take my second semester off. That break gave me a chance to re-group and prioritize my time to balance everything with family, work, and school. I'm thankful the program was very understanding and helped me stay on track and had no issues with taking a break.

Portrait of Taylor wearing a WVU shirt

Taylor Bleigh

Major: Elementary Education (B.A.)
Minor: Special Education

Hometown: Martinsburg, W.Va.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I choose WVU because it’s something my family had always talked about. It’s close to home and close to my grandparents, so it was a no-brainer for me! When I toured WVU I fell in love with the campus and decided that WVU was the best fit for me. I knew it was a great choice when I got to meet my program coordinator at new student orientation -- she made me feel so welcome to the elementary education program and the College of Applied Human Sciences.

How does being a first-generation college student affected your college journey and how you view the commencement ceremony?

As a first-generation student, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the odds and ends of college, but I was really excited and determined to get as much out of it as I could. I navigated these years here alongside some of my best friends and that has made my journey easier because we were able to lean on each other and get through it together.

Graduation day is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. It is a really big deal for my family. Alongside my parents, one of the biggest supporters of my college education is my grandfather – I’m so excited for them to get to watch me walk across the stage. We’ve been talking about it since I started at WVU.

How did WVU and the practical experience you gained through the elementary education program prepare you for your career?

WVU provided me with the academic knowledge and classroom experience for me to be prepared for my first year as a teacher. Throughout my time at WVU, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best professors on campus. They went the extra mile to create relationships with me and my classmates – they honestly made it feel like a little family. The elementary education program has a built-in student teaching experience that has helped me take knowledge from my courses and put it into practice in the classroom.

At the end of the semester last fall as a Teacher-In-Residence in second grade, I was given the option to move to a fifth-grade class within the school to become a long-term substitute for a teacher going on maternity leave. Even though I was nervous about leaving my second-grade family, I thought it would be a great opportunity. I worked on getting a Clinical Teacher of Record certification to allow me to be a substitute and joined the new class in January until their teacher left in February. This experience has been the best I could’ve asked for because I have a really good picture of all of the responsibilities that a teacher has and what my life will be like in my future classroom.

What are your plans following graduation?

I will begin work towards earning a master’s degree in literacy education through WVU Online. In the fall I will begin as a full-time classroom teacher at Fairfax County Public Schools.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming freshman here at WVU?

One piece of advice I would give to an incoming freshman is to try to get everything you can out of college. There is so much knowledge, so many resources, and so many people at WVU that are here to help you. You should take advantage of that because college really is what you make it.

Portrait of Valerie Brunner

Valerie Brunner

Major: Health and Well-Being (B.S.)

Hometown: Morgantown, W.Va.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I chose WVU because it was home to me. Growing up, I knew that I would be going to WVU – I didn’t even look or apply to other colleges. WVU is close to my family, which is something that means the most to me and it’s somewhere I want to be near for the rest of my life.

I changed majors halfway through my junior year and choosing the health and well-being program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I met with Colton Metzger, an advisor in the health and well-being program, and Emily Murphy, a faculty member in the program, and they both talked me through the transition and classes I would need to take during winter break to stay on track with graduation.

The program appreciates its students and pushes them to be the best they can be. Through this program, I was able to intern for the WVU football team, which had been a dream of mine since childhood.

What are your plans upon graduation?

I plan to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at WVU and plan on being a sports physical therapist.

How has the program prepared you for the next step in your career?

The program has prepared me greatly for my next step, which is physical therapy school. The internship program through the WVU Sports Medicine program that allowed me to work with the football program was a huge benefit for me. During my time in the internship (January 2022-April 2023), I learned how to network professionally, how to treat patients in a sports setting, how to act during games and practices as a team’s physical therapist, and much more. This opportunity helped me get the most out of my education.

What were some of the challenges you faced during your time at WVU and how did you get through those?

Some of the hardest challenges came when classes were moved online due to the COVID pandemic. I am someone who learns best in person but being online made that difficult. When I changed to health and well-being, I knew that the program was smaller and that I would be getting the help and support from faculty and staff that I needed to reach my goals.

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?

Follow your dreams, say yes to opportunities, and do everything you can to reach your goals.

Portrait of Melissa Dhyne

Melissa Dhyne

Major: Sport Management (M.S.)

Hometown: Breckenridge, Colo.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I chose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences because the program really appealed to me and my future career goals. The opportunity to learn from a diverse lineup of professors and faculty stood out amongst other programs.

How did this program and degree enhance your career?

By completing the athletic administration portion of the program during my first year, I was able to secure a position in the athletic department at a local high school. The courses prepared me to work in an athletic department, and I came into my position confident and knowledgeable. This degree has prepared me for multiple positions in the sports industry and has provided me with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.

What were some of the challenges you faced during your time at WVU and how did you get through those?

The most difficult thing for me was managing my time. I worked a full-time job in the school district, along with a part-time job, an internship on the side, and graduate school took up a lot of my time. The flexibility of an online graduate program helped as I was able to watch lectures or listen to podcasts on my own schedule after work. Planning my weeks out in advance and scheduling assignments I would work on each day helped me manage my time better.

How was your journey to and through the program unique from others?

I was not accepted into the program the first time I applied. Due to some challenges with mental and physical health, my undergraduate grades did not accurately reflect my potential as a student. After not being accepted, I scheduled a time to meet with Sean Bulger to discuss my circumstances, as well as my academic and career goals. I then focused on telling my story through my application and showed that if given the chance I would take the opportunity to prove myself in the program. I am so thankful to have been given the chance to prove that I belonged and am proud to be graduating from WVU and joining other Mountaineer alumni who will make a difference in the sports industry.

Portrait of Zorin Istvan

Zorin Istvan

Major: Sport Management (B.S.)

Hometown: Johnstown, Pa.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I chose WVU because it is a big school with a small-town feel that is similar to my hometown. WVU was far enough away from home, but still close enough. CAHS is filled with faculty and administrators who want you to succeed. I was in a unique situation bringing 62 credits in as a freshman, and WVU and CAHS made it easy to transfer my credits over to allow me to graduate as early as possible.

How did WVU and CAHS prepare you for the next step in your career?

I fully utilized every staff member possible to gain the most out of my experience. My sport management professors have been an enormous piece in my success giving me lots of guidance and allowing me to avoid little mistakes early on. As for internships and practical experiences, I believe I did as much as I possibly could. I did an internship with a WVU alum who is an NFL agent, and then I worked with the WVU football program in recruiting. I also served as the Sport Management Club as president, and I had an internship with the WVU marketing department. One of the coolest experiences I had was being able to work directly with the Dean Cyprès and be a student ambassador for YOU at WVU, a web-based app that provides resources for students. WVU has provided me with endless opportunities to be involved with our sports teams, outside sports organizations, and other groups and organizations on campus.

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduating, I plan to attend LSU and work as a graduate assistant in their student-athlete development department. This position will allow me to continue my passion for working in sports and directly with student-athletes. I will be pursuing a master’s degree in business administration with a specialization in sport business.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming freshman here at WVU?

It is never too early to get started on your career journey. Many students always have the mindset of having time with no need to rush. I believe that the earlier you try experiences and figure out what you like and do not like, the better. In the sports industry, it is important to fill your resumé with experiences and show employers that you are eager to get involved and learn new areas. In the midst of all the chaos you will come across, ups and downs, never forget your why and why you chose to come to college in the first place.

Portrait of Erin Kenney

Erin Kenney

Major: Sport Management (B.S.)
Minor: Communication Studies, Marketing

Hometown: Bel Air, Md.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I chose WVU because it was the place where I felt the most at home. I toured here while in high school and immediately fell in love with the campus, the sights, the school spirit, and the great things I heard about CAHS. I had many friends go here that recommended it and talked highly of the sports management program and faculty.

How did WVU staff and faculty support you during your time here?

My success would not have been possible without a few members of the WVU staff. Besty Robbins, my advisor, was a great mentor and someone I could talk with during my time here at WVU. She also suggested my internship location and helped me get the ball rolling in the right direction. Patrick Hairston’s classes that involved long study hours and challenging tests kept me on my feet, but his presentations, debates, real-world connections, and experiences taught me so much more about the real world and things you cannot learn in a textbook.

What are your plans following graduation?

I will be an account executive job with Aramark Refreshments starting in June. This job was a product of connections and networking – I was all over LinkedIn and talking and meeting with professionals in all fields, all over the place.

Even though I loved all of my classes and my internship with the WV Black Bears minor league baseball team, I was not locked into working only in sports. I am hoping that my connections with Aramark will lead me into the sports industry at some point.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming freshman here at WVU?

I would tell an incoming freshman to be engaged as much as possible, whether it is through clubs, Greek life, buddy groups, part-time employment, or anything else. Participating in these groups keeps you active and fulfilled. WVU has so much to offer, and you can only experience it if you make the effort. You should attend every tailgate, athletic event, and philanthropic event for Greek life because these are the quickest four years of your life, and there is no other time like being a student at West Virginia University.

What’s one thing you’ll miss about WVU?

The tailgates. I think that every Saturday in the Blue Lot is the happiest I have been here. There is nothing like them.

Flying WV

Jon Cullen

Major: Sport Coaching (M.S.)

Hometown: Meriden, Conn.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I came to WVU largely because of a recommendation from a close friend who had a good experience in the program.

How did this degree fit within your life and career?

The degree aligns seamlessly with where I am in my professional career. I am a high school health and physical education teacher and have been coaching both high school baseball and football.

The program was challenging but extremely rewarding. I loved the fact that I was able to diversify my professional network and I have made connections in both my personal and professional life. There were some unforgettable faculty members that I’ve had throughout this program that helped me effectively complete this program.

What do you think sets WVU apart from the rest when it comes to your learning experience?

WVU employs an ‘A+’ faculty who have had highly decorated coaching careers and thorough amounts of knowledge and experience when it comes to various sports and levels.

What were some of the hardest challenges you had to face during your time at WVU, and how did you get through them?

Among the hardest challenge was prioritizing time crucial for my coursework. Effectively and efficiently managing my time management habits helped me overcome the persistent challenge.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other students starting their degrees online at WVU?

Give it a chance and be patient. The format/platform is beneficial and works with people who have busy personal and professional lives and schedules.

Portrait of Joshua Wingard

Joshua Wingard

Major: Health and Well-Being (B.S.)

Hometown: Petersburg, W.Va.

Why did you choose WVU and the College of Applied Human Sciences?

I had played several sports and been around weightlifting throughout my life, so having the opportunity to pursue a career in the field has been a dream of mine. I like to help people and teach them how to treat an injury the proper way. I want to make a difference in helping people so that they can live in a happier and healthier environment.

What were some of the hardest challenges you had to face during your time at WVU, and how did you get through them?

I had a rough semester, and I was so upset I almost quit school. I had lost interest in my first career choice, physical therapy. However, my family and friends supported me and encouraged me to keep going no matter how hard things got. I was able to finish strong that semester and decided to pursue another career that interested me: chiropractic medicine.

What are your plans following graduation?

I plan to further my education in chiropractic medicine at Parker University in Dallas.

How did WVU prepare you for this next step in your life?

I had a great opportunity with an internship at Advantage Health and Wellness where I was able to learn from great chiropractors and see the impact they have on their patients. The faculty and staff helped with my preparation for graduate school interviews to help me get into the program I wanted.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming freshman here at WVU?

Manage your time wisely.

What’s one thing you’ll miss about WVU?

One thing I will miss about Morgantown is going to the football games every Saturday and being able to spend it with friends and family.

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