Talia PotochnyRising senior and Schreyer Scholar pursuing a B.S. in geography with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation
2019–20 Academic Awards
• Balmat Family Scholarship in Geography
• Matthew J. Wilson Honors Scholarship
• Schreyer International Study Grant
• Student Engagement Network Grant
The Balmat Family Scholarship in Geography provides recognition and financial assistance to outstanding sophomores, juniors, or seniors in the Department of Geography. It was established with a generous contribution by Bruce M. and Ruth Kohut Balmat in 2002.
“I am so thankful to have received the Balmat Family Scholarship,” Potochny said. “Getting accepted to the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) definitely helped me achieve an academic status worthy of this award, in addition to getting good grades and being on the Dean’s List for the past few consecutive semesters.”
Potochny is also very active within the University, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and department research communities.
“I am very involved in research in the department and participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) program, through professor Alex Klippel’s ChoroPhronesis lab,” Potochny said. “I am heavily involved in EMS Student Council, THON and a few other clubs, and work for Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) on their Creative Learning Initiatives team. Additionally, I participated in the EMS CAUSE Program in Colorado and traveled abroad in both Australia and most recently, Spain.”
The grants and scholarships she received have helped Potochny pursue her love of travel and enabled her to continue working part time with TLT, while being a full-time student.
“As a geography major, I realize there is great value in experiential learning,” Potochny said. “Learning about a place in the classroom is great, but experiencing it for yourself by meeting the people and learning about the culture, physical landscape, and the way people interact with their environment or technology adds so much to the experience.”
For her thesis research, Potochny is studying how the switch to online learning affects students with disabilities.
“I am creating resources for students and educators to develop an awareness of the challenges facing students with disabilities,” she said. “My first project will include Zoom guidelines for both students and educators and will be designed to account for accessibility for students with auditory disabilities. My second project will be a classroom activity designed for the TLT Dreamery that will showcase how emerging technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, 3-D printing, telepresence robots, and artificial intelligence can be used in the classroom to enhance student learning for students with visual disabilities.”
Potochny said her most memorable experience in the geography program so far was participating in UROC.
“Not only did I get to learn how research works in the area I was interested in, virtual and augmented reality, but also I got to learn about what my peers were researching and how different and diverse the fields were within geography,” she said.
Potochny said she would recommend new students attend the American Association of Geographers annual conference as early as possible in their careers and to present a paper or poster.
“And talk to your professors and get to know them on a more personal level,” she said. “They really want to help you have the best experience and get the most out of your degree.”
To illustrate, Potochny shared that she was initially intimidated by Roger Downs.
“When I first came to ask him about applying to SHC, he pressed me to think about what I wanted to get out of being in the honors college and why I was applying to begin with,” she said.
“Now I consider him to be one of my closest mentors. He is always pushing me to do better and explain my ideas more clearly, which has helped me to become a better student and a more well-rounded individual.”
Potochny said that being part of the department and college shaped her Penn State experience in ways she could not have imagined.
“In fact, I had never even heard of anyone studying geography before I came to TOTEMS, but I am very happy to have found it,” she said. [Total Orientation to Earth and Mineral Sciences (TOTEMS), recently renamed Total Engagement with Earth and Mineral Sciences (TEEMS) is a pre-semester program specifically designed for first-year students at the University Park campus who are new to the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.]
“I am so glad I chose this as my major, and I am grateful for all the professors, mentors, advisers, and peers who have helped shape my experience,” she said.