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The President’s Pick

Melanie Torres (photo by Steve Williams)Although some contend that watching television rots young minds, junior wildlife and fisheries science major Melanie Torres argues the opposite. Watching television, she maintains, inspired her!

“I’ve always loved animals,” said the Easton, Conn., native. “Watching Animal Planet and seeing the amazing things Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin were able to experience inspired me to pursue this major.”

From hands-on experience with the education department at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Conn., to course loads alive with anthropology lectures and biology labs, Torres is driven to succeed. More important, however, she is driven to experience.

For Torres, the route to gaining this experience at Penn State is the University’s Presidential Leadership Academy. The prestigious academy, which welcomed its inaugural class in the fall 2009 semester, is composed of 30 students from across the University’s academic colleges.

The goal of the academy, according to Penn State President Graham Spanier, is “to ensure that the next generation of leaders develops the critical-thinking skills necessary to make decisions based on all angles of a complicated issue.”

Environmental protection is the issue on the mind of Torres—the only student from the college in her class. “The natural world is vital to our everyday lives, and it really does need to be protected,” she said.

The academy provides its students with an opportunity to participate in several field experiences, such as trips to New York City and Washington, D.C. Each student in the academy is required to take a first-semester seminar taught by Spanier, as well as additional courses that integrate the goals of the academy, and, finally, complete a senior-year capstone project.

Although her commitment to the academy, which lasts the duration of her time at Penn State, adds an extra workload of weekly blog writing and lecture sessions to her already demanding class schedule, Torres continues to embrace this opportunity. “I’m honored for the chance to have these experiences,” said Torres. “Just being exposed to all of these unique perspectives is fascinating.”

Photo: Steve Williams