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Graduate School Alumni Society Award Recipients

2023 Award Recipients

Early Career Award

Jennifer Nyland
Jennifer Nyland

Jennifer Nyland, assistant professor of neuroscience in Penn State’s College of Medicine, received the 2023 Graduate School Early Career Award, which recognizes alumni who have demonstrated exceptional success in their chosen field within ten years of earning their graduate degree.  

Nyland is assistant professor of neuroscience in Penn State’s College of Medicine. Her research focuses on the intersection of pain, stress, and addiction, and is advancing our understanding of pain and addiction and their treatment in humans.

After completing her doctoral degree from Penn State, Nyland served as a staff scientist at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, where she obtained a $9 million grant. She also worked as a principal investigator at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where she led a team of scientists to generate data that informed policy to improve the health and well-being of U.S. Army soldiers.

Nyland returned to Penn State in 2019. Since then, she has been a productive researcher and member of the Penn State Addiction Center for Translation. Her research has been supported by the NIH, DoD, Pennsylvania Department of Health, American Society of Hematology, and the National Academy of Sciences. 

As an emerging leader, she has already demonstrated a commitment to mentoring others. She serves as a group leader for Women in Bio Mentorship, Advisors, Peers and Sponsorship, and is a member of the Penn State Hershey Commission for Women and Penn State’s Military Appreciation Committee.

In 2019, Whitaker Center in Harrisburg named Nyland the Woman to Watch — an award that recognizes a woman younger than 40 who has significant accomplishments and success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Humanitarian Service Award

James Bennett
James Bennett

James Bennett, founder and president of Loss Prevention Systems (LPS) was honored with the 2023 Humanitarian Service Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made a positive societal impact on the welfare of humankind beyond the responsibilities of one's profession.  

Bennett began his mine safety research and advocacy as a doctoral student at Penn State. Together with his adviser, Dr. David Passmore, now Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Education, he received a $5 million Department of Interior grant to study 500,000 injuries of underground coal miners, recording the incidence, severity, and cost of the injuries. Jim used their findings to enhance and improve mine safety education for countless miners by correlating specific hazards to their respective mines.

Building on his doctoral research, Bennett was one of the first to recognize that mine safety was not simply a matter of better engineering or training or regulations. Rather, it was a system of interventions and practices that included behavioral, management, and engineering components, among others.

He left Penn State in 1986 to become executive safety manager with Exxon in South America. During this time, he founded Loss Prevention System (LPS), a comprehensive program that helps organizations prevent all types of losses including personnel and process safety and product quality. LPS is used by more than 400,000 employees in 100 countries in the mining, petroleum, chemical, refining, product and equipment manufacturing industries. As founder and president of LPS, Jim’s expertise can be credited with saving countless lives and avoiding workplace injuries around the world.

Beyond his profession, Bennett is passionate about helping others realize their goals, particularly Hispanic immigrants in his community who are seeking to integrate into the United States. He holds a master’s degree in Old Spanish Literature from Eastern Kentucky University and is fluent in Spanish.

Called to serve, he completed a five-year program to become an ordained deacon of the Roman Catholic Church. He and his wife, Dot, are active volunteers at St. Mark Catholic Church in Richmond, Kentucky, where they oversee the Hispanic Outreach Office. In 2016, Jim and Dot established a family foundation to support and serve the educational health, welfare and nutritional needs of poor and underserved Hispanic community members.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Ken Graham
Ken Graham

Two Penn State alumni were honored with the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.  Ken Graham, senior leadership advisor, Rowhill Consulting Group, and Paul Solomon, retired head of the Environmental Planning Section with the Baltimore, Maryland County Office of Planning and Zoning.  

The Graduate School Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes Graduate School alumni who have achieved exceptional success in their profession and have demonstrated loyalty to the University and the Penn State Alumni Association.  

Graham holds 3 degrees from Penn State, all from the Smeal College of Business. During his career, he worked for 3 large corporations—Shell, Allstate, and Beatrice, and 3 large universities—Penn State, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He currently serves a senior advisor at Rowhill Consulting Group. 

Graham has experience working outside the United States and specializes in helping leaders from cultures around the world thrive in western leadership paradigms.

Notably, he served as head of global leadership development for Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague where he created a leadership development program that is still in use by Shell today.

Graham has helped companies like IBM, Intel, Dell, Dow, Hewlett Packard, FedEx, and many others build leader effectiveness. He has mentored and helped countless individuals achieve their leadership potential.

A dedicated volunteer at Penn State, he is a member of the Schreyer Honors College Presidential Leadership Academy Board of Advisors, and visits campus frequently to speak with our talented young scholars. He serves on the Global Advisory Council and has served as lead facilitator and mentor for the University’s Accelerate to Industry Program and Global Careers Institute.

Paul Solomon
Paul Solomon

Solomon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural and biological sciences from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 1962 and a master’s degree in Regional Planning from the Graduate School in 1968.

He spent his career in government service as a Senior Planner with the York County Planning Commission and later as Head of the Environmental Planning Section with the Baltimore Maryland County Office of Planning and Zoning. Following his retirement, he served for 18 years in an elected position as Shrewsbury Township Supervisor in York County, including 6 years as Chair of the Board. In 2008, Shrewsbury Township was awarded the prestigious Government Leadership in Land Conservation Award from WeConservePA for its leadership and vision in the conservation of special places and landscapes. After retiring as township supervisor, Paul served for two years as Chair of the Shrewsbury Township Planning Commission.

Throughout his life, Solomon has put his Penn State education to use in restoring 8 agricultural properties in PA and NY. Both professionally and personally, he has sought to find ways of preserving the rural and agricultural character of his communities, protecting what was special about them as they grew.

Solomon has been involved with volunteer programs of the University for 30 years. He remains active as a Pennsylvania Forest Steward volunteer with the James C. Finley Center for Private Forests at Penn State and a Master Watershed Steward volunteer with Penn State Extension.

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