Erie's 40 Under 40

Thursday, June 21, 2018

40 under 40

Congratulations to our very own Mercyhurst alumni and friends who were honored with Erie's 40 Under 40 this week!

Article information retrieved from:

Jo Theisen 
Jo Theisen has been dancing practically all her life — from kindergarten to Mercyhurst University (as a dual major in Dance and World Languages and Cultures) all the way to the court of law. The balance, grace, and coordination she's derived from ballet and modern dance have also served her well as a family law practitioner. She earned her law degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (while also performing professionally with the Ballet Theatre of Ohio) before returning to Erie to work with a mid-sized firm and ultimately establishing her own practice with partner Andrea Amicangelo in 2017. Says Amicangelo: "Jo is an excellent example of an accomplished woman who balances both the creative and professional worlds in her life. I believe this makes her a more open, insightful forward-thinking, yet disciplined individual."

The Board President of the Erie Contemporary Ballet Theatre and Board Co-President of the Erie Dance Consortium is equally adept at choreographing routines (one of which was selected for the Regional Dance America Northeast Festival in Manchester, N.H. this spring) and resolutions between families embroiled in difficult legal conflicts as a mediator and collaborative practitioner. Theisen serves on the board of directors for the Erie County Bar Association, including as vice-chair of the ECBA Family Law Section. She is also involved with the Erie Women's Fund and ATHENA Circle of Trust. Her objectives for a better Erie include providing "people with a healthier way to resolve their family law issues by offering individualized out-of-court resolution services" and "uniting and strengthening the dance scene in Erie." Nominators agree that Theisen is going through the motions the right way.

Jennifer Dennehy
You probably know Jennifer Dennehy. She's the one with the hula-hoops, encouraging your kids and your friends' kids (and sometimes you!) to get your body moving at any one of Erie's arts and culture events throughout the year. What you may not know is that those hula-hoops are representative of a much greater repertoire of dance and service to the community. She's developed dance programs for early learners at St. Martin Center for nearly six years, she teaches in the Partners in Dance Program, a collaborative effort between Dafmark Dance and Erie Homes for Children and Adults, and this spring she launched a dance program for people with Parkinson's Disease. These are just a few of the reasons why she was the 2015 recipient of the Bruce Morton Wright Artist of the Year Award from Erie Arts and Culture. Dennehy is a native of North Tonawanda, N.Y., and she's studied psychology at Mercyhurst University and creative dance at Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

Bakul Gokhale
If you've been attending any of the growing number of multicultural events in Erie recently, chances are that Bakul Gokhale has played a part in organizing one of them.
At the Erie Art Museum's recent Taste of Asia festival, she offered dosas, curries, and chutneys from her native India to raise money for the Erie Asian American Pacific Association, where she serves as vice president. In late May, she helped organize the biennial Asian Festival at Rainbow Gardens. The event featured performances of Indian classical dance, cuisines from various Asian nations, and display booths highlighting the cultures of our immigrant communities. Gokhale has also helps organize the Multicultural Asia Day at the ExpERIEnce Children's Museum and recently piloted a series of cultural evenings for our young people at places like the Asbury School.
Professionally, Gokhale became a Project manager at Erie Insurance in 2017. She holds two master's degrees — one in human resources from Mercyhurst University, and one in tourism and hospitality from India's Garware College of Commerce. She was nominated for this list because she has been "instrumental in bringing new events and strategies" to our region, while partnering our immigrant and minority communities with "various schools in the area to encourage the children to recognize and accept our diverse community."

Caitlin Handerhan
You could say Caitlin Handerhan is good at wearing many different — and at times multiple — hats. Whether it's a literal riding helmet — this 27-year-old Mercer native often can be found riding horses and training herself for a 5K run or half marathons when she isn't at the office — or a figurative cranial adornment, Handerhan carries each with passion and poise.
As the Executive Director of the Public Policy Fund at Penn State Behrend, Handerhan, who earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Cornell University in 2015, teaches political science classes, such as Media & Politics; organizes policy-related events, such as panel discussions and debates; and oversees many other things, such as students' political science internships and a grant program that sponsors research on pressing issues facing Erie. She has also taken point on the Council of Academic Advisors, and if that wasn't enough she'll begin serving as the managing editor of the soon-to-be-launched Behrend Policy Review.
Off campus, she serves as a board member of Emerge PA, an organization that helps train women to run for office.
Prior to the classroom, she spent time on the campaign trail, serving as the campaign manager for Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper's successful 2017 re-election bid.
"I hope to contribute research and interdisciplinary perspectives to the policy discussions driving Erie's resurgence," Handerhan says. "This is a place that I have chosen to make my home, and I want as many people as possible to see all of the great things that Erie has to offer."

Katie Huba
Since assuming directorship of the Opportunities for Academic Success in Inclusive Settings (OASIS) Program in 2017, Katie Huba has had little trouble fitting in with its mission — to assist students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to fit into both the classroom and society at large. The OASIS Program was instituted in 2007 to nurture basic academic and social skills, as well as the hard and soft skills essential to obtaining gainful employment. Specifically, OASIS offers proficiency-based certificates in the culinary arts, hospitality, business, and early childhood. Huba has been a passionate advocate for special education since the age of 12.
Huba, a graduate of Penn Hills Senior High School and Edinboro University, received a Master's of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Mercyhurst University last year and has swiftly put that degree to use, growing the program significantly within her short time at the helm. "Expanding the OASIS Program … will increase not only our employment rate in the area, but also provide voices to the population within our community that are often not heard. Since my involvement with the program began, I have met many professionals, families, and students in the area who were unaware of the program and what it can possibly help to do." With Huba's recognition here, hopefully all of Erie will soon be in on the loop.

Kristin Bowers
Kristin Bowers serves as one of Erie's prime connections with county government, with colleagues citing her professionalism and commitment to building a better government. Since the summer of 2016, she has handled communications for departments across our county's government, focusing on things like public relations, social media, and a soon-to-be-unveiled new design for the Erie County website. Bowers claims that her "overarching goal is to help connect the residents of Erie County with the services and programs that are available to them through their county government."
Prior to working for the County, Bowers was a seasoned journalist, designer, and copy editor for the Erie Times-News. She still maintains her connections to journalism by serving as an adviser to The Merciad — Mercyhurst University's student newspaper. Her way with words has been crucial to her work as Public Information Officer, which helped the DuBois native to deepen her roots in Erie. With local connections in mind, she also completed the Jefferson Educational Society's Civic Leadership Academy in 2017. "As someone who wasn't raised here but who chose to make a life in Erie, I can clearly see the many advantages that sometimes get overshadowed by naysayers," says Bowers.

Tyler G. Travis
A champion of healthy living, Tyler Travis oversees a key part of one of our region's largest players — the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. The John M. and Silvia Ferretti LECOM Health and Wellness Center serves as a community conduit, offering world-class facilities, and at the heart of it you can find Travis, the center's director. "As a community," Travis explained, "we can eliminate many diseases such as diabetes and heart disease by moving more, sitting less, and eating sensibly." The 82,000 square foot building is open to the public, and features a full gym, swimming pools, basketball and racquetball courts, as well as classes and health screenings. A graduate of Penn State Behrend and Minnesota State-Mankato, Travis holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and USA Weightlifting. His commitment to staying active rings true even after work — he's also a strength and conditioning coach for Mercyhurst Hockey, an affiliate instructor for the American College of Sports Medicine, and Volunteer Chair for the 2018 American Heart Association Heart Walk. Travis' charming positivity truly shines through from the moment you meet him. He reasons simply that "when it comes to improving health and well-being, it doesn't have to be complex."