Senior Profile: Rose Mrdjenovic (’17)

By Nicole Sobolewski (’20)


Why English?

Rose chose to study English because she knew that she “wanted to be a writer ever since she was nine years old.” Also, she enjoyed learning about the English language and grammar from a young age. In the long run, this liking gave her an advantage in studying English. On top of that, “English is easy to double major” with. It provides room for other majors or minors, which is why Rose chose to double major in Religious Studies.

Advice to New Majors

Rose advised new majors to “make sure to take classes you like,” not just the required courses. However, don’t just take fun classes; make sure to complete the required courses. In most cases, people end up with more English classes taken than needed; therefore, they are able to take other classes. Also, Rose said, “do the readings, do the homework” and always proofread papers.

A Text that Inspired Rose

A text that influenced Rose significantly is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This novel’s genre is fantasy, and involves witches, magic, and plot twists. After having read it, at age nine, Rose knew that she wanted to “make something as wonderful as this” when she was older. To this day, Rose looks at the book being a key influence on her college decisions.

Challenging Issues within the English Major

Some of the hardest struggles Rose has experienced are the extensive amount of reading, pacing herself, and research papers. Rose has always had trouble with “the amount of reading there is” and with getting through with these readings. She is fast reader, but there is an extensive amount of work. In addition, pacing herself has been a challenge for Rose. She advises that others learn to pace themselves because it will definitely help with the courseload. Lastly, research papers are demanding work because of the process that’s required: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading.

General Focus of Capstone Paper

Within a Capstone paper, seniors (and some juniors) are required to pick a thesis that argues a point of view about a certain topic/book. The class(es) provide an entire process that helps students complete their fifteen-page thesis paper. Seniors are able to write about anything, as long as it’s literature related. Rose is still deciding what to have her paper be on. She was thinking of writing about Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire in Hemlock, and/or she wants to look at female heroines presented in Jones’s novels, since her novels create such strong characters.

Outside of the Classroom

As of right now, Rose is waiting to start an internship at Holy Cross High School here in Scranton. She is also involved in Big House, which is a Marywood Christian living community in Madonna that promotes Christian beliefs on campus. Rose is one of the main leaders there, and she helps provide comfort to individuals living there, as well as guidance.

Most Influential Classes and Professors

Three professors that had a large impact on Rose at Marywood are: Sister Christine, Dr. Bittel, and Dr. Conlogue. Sister Christine teaches a class called Faith Experience in Literature. Rose said that this class was “everything she wanted in an English class,” and it opened her eyes into the field of religion. Dr. Bittel teaches Children’s Literature, and this course was one of Rose’s favorites. She loved being able to critically analyze children’s books. Lastly, Dr. Conologue is Rose’s advisor and throughout her time in Marywood, he has guided her to pick the classes that would best suit her.

After College

Rose is considering applying to a graduate school in New York called SUNY New Paltz. This school is fifteen minutes from her house, which will allow her to be close to her family. At the university, she wishes to hold an English Assistantship so that she has two classes paid for and can have teaching experience by helping teach Freshman Composition each semester.




Alum Profile: Gabriela Pedroza (’09)

Profile by Alicia Belch


Gabriela Pedroza, Paralegal
Sweet and Paciorek, LLC (Immigration Law)

Why Marywood?

Gabriela chose Marywood because of the close-knit atmosphere. The small class sizes made it possible for her to really interact with her classmates and create strong relationships with the professors. Gaby states, “The professors weren’t just my teachers, but became more like family to me. They cared about students not just in the classroom, but outside, too.”

 Skills Acquired at Marywood

Gaby’s experience at Marywood has helped her gain important social and public speaking skills. She states, “The public speaking skills I have developed at Marywood help me not only during information sessions that I give at my job, but also for the numerous immigration activism roles I take on.” Gaby works directly with clients everyday preparing applications for family-based benefits and defense, affidavits, and arguments. Within the English Department at Marywood, Gaby was able to explore many different subjects that, although challenging, shaped her into a well-rounded person. “The Marywood English Department helped me develop personally by giving me an environment where I felt comfortable. I got the opportunity to explore many topics within the department that I never would have done on my own.”

 Greatest Accomplishments

 Since graduating Marywood, Gaby has accomplished her goals in both her professional and personal life. She states, “In my career my greatest accomplishment has been to help my clients get one step closer to obtaining their ‘American Dream,’ which many times is to stay in the United States with their families. On a personal level, besides being the single mother of a beautiful six and a half year old girl, my greatest accomplishment has been to become involved in the Immigrant Rights movement and teaching my daughter why it is so important for us to stand up for those who are too afraid to speak up. I have participated in several protests in order to advocate for immigrants and have given my testimony at several conferences.”

Interests, Hobbies, & Work Life

Gabriela’s biggest interest is in the Immigrant Rights movement. She participates as much as she can while caring for her daughter. She explains what she does in her spare time: “I like to read and dance but spend most of the time as a taxi driver for my daughter, who is a Girl Scout,  dances,  acts, and takes swimming lessons.” Gaby explains that she’s always wanted to be a part of the professional community she’s involved with currently. Before working as a paralegal, Gaby was a Director of Social Services for a Catholic Church where she was able to help those in need.

Gaby’s Advice

 Gaby’s advice for future English majors is to venture out and take advantage of everything Marywood has to offer. She states, “My advice to future English majors would be to really get to know the professors. They will become more than just your professors—they will become your friends, even family. Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you, and take a great variety of classes. You will be surprised and end up liking things that you may never have thought possible!”

Alum Profile: Dave Scarnato (’12)

Profile by Dominic Behler (’17)Dave

Dave Scarnato, Photojournalist/Producer
WNEP News, Scranton, PA

A World in Pictures

“Anyone can take pictures,” Dave assures me. As a photojournalist at WNEP News, nothing could be closer to the truth. Using only a camera, Dave tells a story, moment to moment, in pictures. No words. The inherent challenge of this explains why Dave dislikes “Camera Man” and “Photographer” as titles. “As a producer, I rely on writing skills that are simple, clear and concise. In live TV, you get one chance to get it right.”

Time Well Spent

Dave’s favorite memory of the English Department was “[t]he people. The department is so close and so supportive of each other. It is a family.”  Dave recalls, “That’s definitely what makes the English department, especially at Marywood, unique. If it wasn’t for the support from my peers and professors, I don’t think I’d be where I am at today.”

Internships were discussed as well, with Dave advising as many as three or more. “English is such a versatile subject that you can utilize in almost any field,” Dave says.

Most importantly, Dave emphasizes personal motivation: “Always want more of yourself and what you’re studying.”

 Running into the Future

Outside of Photojournalism and Producing, Dave has several hobbies, including marathons, and baseball. For students at Marywood, Dave suggests that they acquire a minor. In fact he recommends, “Heck, pick up a few minors.” Strangely, Dave isn’t much of a reader.“I like simple stories from magazines, newspapers, news websites, etc.,” he explains, though he does love to read the latest novels from the great Mitch Albom. “That man is a genius and knows how to pull you in,” he observes.



Alum Profile: Jessica (Beavers) Smith (’10)

Profile by Matt Pelucacci (’18)


                  Jessica Smith, United States Army Intelligence Officer   

Lacing Up Her Boots

Jessica graduated Marywood in a position which many college graduates find themselves in:  unsure of what direction to head in.  She did, however, possess an urge and passion to see the world.  She didn’t want a normal career where she would become stagnant.  “I graduated from Marywood and traveled abroad heavily for about a year.  I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life but I definitely didn’t want to stay in one place for too long,” she explains. She eventually chose a career of service through the United States Army.  Jessica found her specialty in the critical field of Intelligence.  She draws on skills such as analysis, organization, written and verbal communication, leadership, and an understanding of how other cultures operate in order to serve and defend our nation.  These skills were all developed through the study of English.

Marching Forward

Jessica’s experience at Marywood helped her become what she is today.  She learned how to analyze and deconstruct texts through classes such as Dr. Conlogue’s Literary Criticism class.  “[The class] was so fascinating, and I became quite obsessed with deconstruction theory for a while afterwards,” she recalls.  Close reading and interpretation skills helped her to refine her skills in Intelligence.  She found English to be more than meets the eye.  As an Intelligence Officer, Jessica benefits from the diverse strengths the study of English can build: “The interdisciplinary nature of studying English breeds more opportunities than studying a single-scope subject.  Because of that, English allows you to be a chameleon in the workplace.”  English helps her understand the culture, history, philosophy, and anthropology of another society, allowing her to interpret and analyze enemy information and counter enemy tactics.  It also gives her diverse capabilities, rendering her able to handle many different professional responsibilities and personal interests.

At Ease

Outside of her duties, Jessica enjoys exploring the world and continues to live a high speed lifestyle.  She travels whenever she can for both leisure and business.  Her hobbies are mostly fitness- and travel-related.  She competes in half marathons, enjoys exploring craft breweries wherever she can, and also continues to educate herself when she finds time.  She likes to find a quiet, calm nook to learn how to code or read a story from one of her favorite books, The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales by Bessie Head.  She is studying code to potentially transition to a new field of technology and design, never slowing down and always moving forward.

About Face

Jessica’s path has shown her the world, pushed her limits, and led her to a career of adventures, experiences, and duty.  She offers the following inspirational advice to current and aspiring English Majors: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a teaching or an editing gig (unless of course that’s what you really want).  English majors are chameleons—we can blend in and bring value to any organization.”  She has learned and demonstrated the multifaceted capabilities of the English major.  Jessica recommends always pursuing new experiences that allow you to see the world, such as studying abroad or traveling.  She has been driven by passion, and we can all take a tip from Jessica’s personal philosophy: “I believe in studying what you love.  Everything else will fall into place.”

Alum Profile: Molly Boylan (’13)

Profile by David Kruman (’18)


Molly Boylan, Lead Editor
The reThink Group, Cumming, GA

Molly Boylan, Marywood University Class of 2013, graduated with a degree in English Literature.  Molly graduated from Scranton High School and attended Eastern University for her freshman year of college.  She enrolled at Marywood as an English major because she wanted a better understanding of reading, writing and critical thinking.  Molly’s interest developed after having a positive experience taking English classes in high school.  Her intentions with a degree in English Literature were to be an editor and eventually a publisher.

Molly was the Editor-in-Chief at The Wood Word, Marywood University’s school newspaper, and worked in the Writing Center, tutoring other students.  At the Wood Word, Molly gives credit to Dr. Wotanis for teaching her to edit properly.  A couple of Molly’s favorite classes were World Literature with Dr. Conlogue and Young Adult Literature with Dr. Bittel.  In World Literature, students are taught about different literature written in different parts of the world in different time periods.  Molly was fascinated by the impact that culture, language and time have on the way literature is written.  In Young Adult Literature, students learn a different style of writing, written for a younger audience.  In Molly’s last year at Marywood, she wrote her senior capstone paper on two different Young Adult novels.

After graduating from Marywood, Molly found employment here in Scranton at NeighborWorks NEPA.  At this non-profit,  she worked in communications, where she had the opportunity to utilize the critical thinking skills she learned from Marywood’s English department.  Almost a year and a half later, in January 2015, Molly found employment in her field: “The job description was the same as my dream job.”  Molly moved to Georgia to work for a company called The Rethink Group or Orange.  Orange is a company that makes Sunday School curricula for pre-school through high school.  Molly is the lead editor for elementary school curricula.   At Orange, she practices the critical reading and writing skills she learned at Marywood.  Molly still enjoys reading in her spare time and has had some experience blogging as well.

Molly’s most memorable experience at Marywood was when she studied abroad with Dr. Wotanis and Dr. McMillan in Ireland.  “I put pen to paper about what I was experiencing in creative ways.  I had a better experience because I was recording what I was learning and experiencing,” she notes.  In Marywood’s English classes, students are taught to put themselves in the character’s shoes to fully understand the characters themselves.  Studying abroad allowed Molly to be her own character.

At the end of the interview, I asked Molly for a few words of advice for all of Marywood’s future English majors.  “Think about what interests you and take classes based on what you like, get involved in something you are interested like extracurricular activities and stick with them,” she recommends.  Molly tells a story of success and hope for all students and faculty alike.


Sneak Peek! Senior Seminar Conference 2016

Eleven extremely thoughtful English majors will be presenting their research at a department conference on Thursday, 5 May 2016 in the Swartz Center Rooms C & D at Marywood University.


Front: David, Diane, Marilyn, Elise, Amanda, Jamie; Back: Nicole, Paul, Jessi, Kathleen, Riley

If you’d like a sense of their work, check out their blogs (linked just below). You will find an abstract for each conference presentation, and you can even peruse each student’s blog to discover more about what they’ve been thinking about over the course of the semester.

And if you’re looking for someone to hire, be sure to check out their resumés!

I. Of Demigods, Dystopias, & Dastardly Dames: Stretching Gender Roles in Literature & Film

Nicole Meshko: “‘Are You a Boy? Or Are You a Girl?’: An Analysis of Gender in The Lightning Thief”
Marilyn Anderson: “She’s the Man Coerced into Womanhood and She’s the Girl Transformed by Manhood: The Hunger Games and Divergent
Elise Cargan: “The Not-So Villainous Villainess: How Traditional Gender Roles are Challenged and Combined in Disney’s Maleficent

II. The Maniacs, the Deafies, & the Homies: Representations of Minorities in Popular Culture

Diane Congdon: “This Playbook is a Handbook for Mental Awareness”
Amanda Thornley: “The Silence is Deafinitely Getting Louder: Deafness and Deaf Culture in Switched at Birth
Kathleen Blazosek: “Yo, Son, You Catch Last Night’s Episode? Slang and Stereotypes in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

III. Harry Potter and the Sounds of Silence

Riley Covaleski: “Harry Potter and the Fountain of Youth: Categorizing the Kid Wizard”
Paul Capoccia: “‘They don’t understand, do they?’: Screaming, Sound, and Silence in Our Town and Death of a Salesman

IV. Is What You See What You Get? Social Critique in 19th- and 20th-Century Fiction

Jamie Linde: “‘The Constraint of Day’: Observing the Body in Tess of the d’Urbervilles
David Burns: “Monstrous Behavior: Investigating the Normal in Grendel
Jessi Terry: “A Corrupt Society: Discovering the Effects of Consumerism and Media in White Noise”

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Alum Profile: Josh Frank (’05)

Profile by Matthew Murphy (’18)


Josh Frank, Project Lead/User Experience
for AdjustCreative (Chicago, IL)


Josh Frank started as an undergrad at a small liberal arts college in Illinois. After 3 1/2 years, he stopped and joined the workforce before continuing his schooling at Marywood University. Throughout Josh’s life he always worked with children, whether it was with Children and Youth Services, being a swim coach, or working at a group home for kids with behavioral disorders. This, along with his love for reading, is what led him to pursue an English Secondary Education major. However, Josh realized that he did not want to teach, but he still wanted to work with children in his church’s youth group, so he dropped his Secondary Education and finished as an English major. During Josh’s time at Marywood, he had a lot of great relationships with some of the teachers, and some led to great friendships later in life. Josh really enjoyed all of the different ways the teachers taught, especially when they involved exploration of spirituality within literature.

Adjust Creative

Before starting Adjust Creative, Josh Frank designed for print and for the web during his undergrad years in Illinois. He continued to do designing in both media all through his life and still does it today. For a short period in his life, he worked with many designers on different projects and eventually started Adjust with a few designers he had worked with in the past. When Adjust Creative was finally born, he became a founder, a Project Lead, and a User Experience expert for the company. Being an English major helped him tremendously with his work for Adjust Creative. From being an English major, Josh learned how to think critically with logic, reason, empathy, and emotions. After learning this it helped him think and communicate clearly with his clients in both writing and speaking. It also allowed him to understand people’s problems and think of ways to fix them. He said that detailed but precise communication is critical for him and his coworkers, along with his clients.

Adjust Creative will be 2 years old in July and is only going to grow a bit more in the future. In the future, he sees Adjust getting a little bit bigger and forming more “teams.” Josh wants the company to be, “not well known, [but] in charge of [their] own destiny.” He also hopes to continue working “behind the scenes for projects to get into foreground working with interesting people.”


There are two pieces of advice Josh has for current and upcoming majors at Marywood. First he said, “[do] not hesitate at all. Engage and take advantage of resources with [your] professors. They are very remarkable resources.” He then finished by saying,Life does not have to start after college. Start looking for internships and part-time work as early as possible.”

Alum Profile: Erica Barone Pricci, Ph.D. (’03)

Profile by Elise Cargan (’16)

Currently serving as Lackawanna College’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Erica Barone Pricci, Ph.D., is one of Marywood’s esteemed English department alumni. After her undergraduate studies at Marywood, Erica received her Master’s degree in English from Lehigh University and then returned back to Marywood to receive her Ph.D. in Human Development with a concentration in Higher Education Administration. When asked about how her studies as an English major helped prepare her for her career field, Erica can only rave about how beneficial studying English really is: “I learned to think critically and analyze problems in a logical, thoughtful way. My job requires me to communicate every day with a variety of constituencies, including students, parents, faculty, and staff, and my written and verbal communication skills were shaped by the strategies I learned as an English major.” Erica also cites the rhetorical situation— specifically Dr. Conlogue’s chalk-rendered version— as well as literary criticism and the importance of being a good reader as key to being a well-rounded professional.

Marywood Memories

Erica has many fabulous memories about her time as an undergrad at Marywood University. One of her favorite things to do in her English classes was to sit in a circle with her fellow classmates and discuss literature and writing. Through this process— one that is unique to schools like Marywood, which enjoy small class sizes— Erica was able to truly understand how literature helps make meaning out of life’s most complex situations, like giving new life to the tragedy of the 1930s and the Dust Bowl through John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. “When literature helped me understand society and culture in a way nothing else ever could, that was when some of my best memories were made,” she notes.

Advice for the Future

Like many seniors graduating from college, Erica experienced the same anxiety and dread as everyone else when looking for a start to her future career. Her advice for looking for a job is simple: find one that you are passionate about, and then figure out how your skills fit into it. She also urges current English majors to truly understand the versatility of an English degree: “English majors are great readers, thinkers, and writers, and the career opportunities for someone with those skills are endless . . . I am grateful to the Marywood English Department for giving me the foundation to pursue an educational and career path that I love!”

Alum Profile: Victoria Garafola (’13)

Profile by Sarah Wagner (’18)


Victoria Garafola, Freelance Writer
Osaka, Japan

Freelance Writing

As a freelance writer … I can make my own hours and work anywhere with an internet connection. It’s the perfect way to make money while traveling.

Victoria Garafola has spent the last two years living in Japan as a freelance writer. She is able to take on various writing projects as well as recreational writing. The hardest part of freelance writing, claims Victoria, is finding someone to work for. “I do almost all of my client sourcing on the internet. Once I find the client, I basically go back into ‘college mode,’ researching everything I can about the topic at hand,” she explains.

Victoria feels that living in Japan gives her an edge over others who want to write about Japan. In her time living there, she has seized the opportunity to try her best at learning the language. She studies how to read Kanji, the Japanese writing, for an hour everyday.

Victoria also enjoys exploring the country. She also believes that Japan has had a big influence on her poetry. “I believe we are a mixture of the people and cultures we surround ourselves in. So, in a way, I’ve adopted parts of Japan within myself and that is definitely noticeable in my creative writing,” she says.

Education at Marywood

I absolutely loved [Marywood’s] English department.I think their sense of detail and personal attention to academic progress instilled healthy research habits. My professors were always available to give individual guidance […] Marywood prepared me well because I was taught the tools I need to continue learning on my own.

Victoria graduated from Marywood in 2013 with a degree in English and four minors: Writing, Environmental Science, Women’s Studies, and Journalism. She felt that Marywood’s core curriculum really ignited her interest in these other subjects. Victoria has always loved the idea of adventure and traveling. It was even present in her capstone where she wrote about how traveling America is present in literature.

Victoria’s favorite memory at Marywood was when she went on a service trip to Guatemala. This was her first time traveling internationally. She feels that “walking through the colorful markets and ancient trails, witnessing another culture for the first time” had a huge influence on who she is today.

The most influential classes for Victoria included “Hunger in the 21st Century” and her senior seminar in the English department. “Hunger in the 21st Century” got her thinking about humanity’s problems at an international level, and her senior seminar gave her freedom to connect her literary studies with her own life and future.

Victoria Today: Travel, Poetry, and Her Dog, Margot

Basically my biggest passions are language, travel, and culture, so I’m doing everything I can to live a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy those things.

Victoria still continues to travel, even beyond Japan. Last year, she visited six countries, Italy being her favorite. Her favorite Japanese treats include avocado sushi, fresh mochi, and vegetable ramen, although the most interesting thing she’s tried was a fried maple leaf, which evidently tastes very much like a funnel cake. She writes poetry in her spare time and loves hanging out with her dog, who was the only friend that accompanied Victoria on her move to Japan.

Lastly, Some Advice to Live By

Take (scary) chances. Try to do what you want to do, get rejected, and try again. And again, if necessary.

Alum Profile: Rebecca Zukauskas (’05)

Profile by Michael Smith (’19)


Rebecca Zukauskas, Senior Editor
Northeast Editing (Pittston, PA)


Today, Rebecca Zukauskas (’05) is a senior editor and a mother. She writes everything from SAT prep materials to library reference articles for Northeast Editing—arguably the perfect job for an English major. Before she landed her current job, she graduated from Marywood University with a major in English. And before that, she was an avid reader. Zukauskas related that her mother was—and is—a prolific reader who “instill[ed] a love of reading” in her and her brother as they were growing up. Her favorite books include Pride and Prejudice and Dracula. The latter became the subject of a paper, entitled “But … You’re Just a Girl: Representations of the New Woman in Buffy and Dracula”  which Zukauskas presented at the 2004 Slayage conference, which featured scholarship on the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


In a literature class with Dr. Bittel, she learned of the Victorian “New Woman,” exemplified by the character Mina Harker in Dracula. Zukauskas saw a parallel between this archetype and another female protagonist from a story involving vampires: Willow Rosenberg of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She described revising her paper to present it at the conference as a “back and forth process” of deciding what her paper was about within the limitations of the conference presentation time limit. She went on to present another paper, “Princess Lessons: Gender, Power, and The Princess Diaries,” at the 2005 Southwest Popular/American Culture Conference. Its topic was the Princess Diaries book series.


Zukauskas felt that the classes she took and the information she got at the career nights she attended prepared her well for her career. She started work at Northeast Editing in November 2005, the year she graduated, and has been there ever since. While Zukauskas uses the writing skills she learned from her English classes every day, each day brings new and unique challenges. Northeast Editing’s clients have diverse needs, and meeting them often requires her to conduct research outside of her area of expertise. Thediversity of her liberal arts education has proven to be a valuable asset in this, giving her the background knowledge required to research effectively. She’s seen a significant shift in the way assessment is conducted in the time she’s been at Northeast Editing—tests are increasingly taken on electronic devices as technology becomes more prevalent in education. Despite this change, however, she has found that “good writing is still needed, and good editing is still needed.”

Zukauskas’s advice to English majors is simple: keep your options open. There’s “so much the English major can do.”